Upset by delay in disbursement of scholarships

| 31/01/2017

Why is it still taking the government Scholarship Secretariat so long to give students their funds and school has resumed? We were told at the meeting to submit our semester grades by December 15. It’s now January 7 and not even an email or phone call from them. Is the office being managed properly (I know I’ll get backlash for this but it’s a common complaint) or do they need to hire more personable staff? It’s a shame because school started back and the school wants the tuition. We kept our side by submitting on time, yet the department or staff cannot even reply! When you call they say they can’t speak to you, put in writing. You put it in writing and no one acknowledges it. Pathetic!

Auntie’s answer: I realise it has been a few weeks since your question but this one took a bit of time. The Scholarship Secretariat sent a very long, detailed reply which I will try to disseminate as clearly and simply as possible.

As you mentioned, 15 December is a critical date in the disbursement process; that is when distribution of funds for the spring semester begins. A secretariat official pointed out, however, that although a few students submit their documents before that time, many do not.

“There is therefore a very tight window within which to process the disbursement of funds for the continuing students. As a result, the team is heavily focused on processing submissions in order of receipt as quickly as possible, whilst reviewing grades for both local and overseas students and issuing warning letters or suspension letters as necessary,” the official said.

Last year, the Education Council implemented new grade point average/grade average requirements and a warning system for all new local and overseas scholars. Under these rules, students must show proof of grade achievement or assessments from their universities or professors to support their submissions. If a student falls between a specific grade range they can receive a one-time warning; if the grades are below that, funding will get immediately suspended.

The secretariat representative pointed to an issue with scholarship recipients meeting these new requirements as well as the original rules as one reason for the delays that you are complaining about: “Unfortunately, although students were informed and provided with these new submission requirements with their scholarship award documents, and reminded of these before the end of the fall semester, an estimated 75% of students failed to submit all required documents.”

The official added that since 2012/2013 the number of students on scholarships has increased from 844 to more than 1,400, with approximately 500 on overseas scholarships.

In the interests of good governance, the records for scholarship recipients are subject to audit by government’s Internal Audit Unit, which means the secretariat is obligated to ensure each student’s file is accurate and complete, and contains documentary evidence that all disbursements follow established policy guidelines.

“As many of the recent submissions did not meet the new requirements, the Scholarship Secretariat had to go back and forth to obtain the necessary information resulting in delays in processing, with rippling effects including delays to other students who were compliant,” the official said. “We will be reminding scholarship recipients to do their part by submitting all required documentation in a timely manner to facilitate the efficient processing of distribution requests.”

In your case, you submitted the grades by the 15 December deadline, so perhaps you were caught in a delay caused by students whose submissions were late. I stress that is my opinion based on what the secretariat is saying. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is fair to you.

One other point regarding this knock-on effect: The official said that the secretariat “will be implementing a new checklist cover sheet to be completed by each overseas student with the understanding that the non-provision of required documents at the end of the semester will result in that student being advised of their non-compliance and the next student being dealt with accordingly.

“The secretariat will not continue to engage in continuous back and forth chasing of information. The supply of required documentation for the submissions process is the responsibility of the scholar.”

But the secretariat is also looking at ways to improve the situation. The official explained that the department has been conducting a review on how to speed things up. Last year, it increased staff from three to five (though I suspect you would like to see an even higher number) and the year before launched an online platform for submitting applications.

That review also involves a look at the workflow of the secretariat. “Through this work additional opportunities for creating efficiencies within the department will be identified and changes made accordingly, which will improve response times and communication.”

The official also spoke of creating an opportunity for clients to provide feedback on the department’s performance, and added that the secretariat “will continue to give necessary guidance as required and especially where the student is unable to resolve a submission requirement on their own, due to circumstances beyond their control”.

I realise I did not provide an answer as to why you never received a call or email in reply to your communications to the secretariat. I can suppose that the beginning-of-term crush made that difficult, but I do not know for sure.


Category: Ask Auntie, Education, Scholarships

Comments (7)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    A huge disconnect is happening…The Scholarship Sec is trying to tick boxes based on a single educational system. Doesnt work with UK esp advanced education and spec programmes

  2. Anonymous says:

    In my case the email sent on required documentation left off half the requirements, so I provided everything asked for and got an ‘incomplete’ response. Needless to say I then ran around getting the additional information, but perhaps why they have a 75pct incomplete initial response.

    The process is also geared towards US institutions, half of the requirements asked for aren’t a standard issue in the U.K.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Could the Internal Audit unit please confirm that all recipients of scholarships are Caymanian?

  4. Anonymous says:

    How does the secretariat determine that recipients of scholarships are Caymanian?

  5. Anonymous says:

    School? These are universities, at least in proper English in a British territory. If people choose to send their children to terrible American institutions the least we can do is encourage that the can speak the Queen’s English.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, apart from the fact many specialised higher education establishments and universities refer to themselves as Schools, such as the London School of Economics, Leeds School of Business, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Manchester School of Architecture, and so on.