Thousands benefit from tuition grant programme

Approximately 2,900 of almost 5,000 students enrolled at the University of The Bahamas (UB) are benefitting from the Government’s Tertiary Education Grant Programme initiated last August to increase tuition-free access to tertiary education for qualified Bahamians, said Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis.

Of that number, 178 are receiving the additional $500 per month residential grant to help defray the cost of housing for qualified students who must relocate from the Family Islands to attend UB, the Prime Minister added.

The Prime Minister was speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for UB’s $95-million-dollar Residence and Multi-Purpose Complex on Thursday 30 January.

“The progressive and sustainable economic development of The Bahamas rests on the proper education and training of our people,” said Prime Minister Minnis.

“The University of The Bahamas plays a fundamental role in this regard.”

The complex will encompass: 1,000-bed capacity for student residents; 400 parking stalls; more than 50,000 square feet of common areas including a fitness centre, study rooms, a 200-seat dining hall, a 500-seat ballroom and a spiritual life centre; a University Village for leased retail commercial and business operations, and faculty residences.

UB has entered into a public-private partnership for the new complex. Providence Investment and Asset Campus International, an affiliate of the third-party student housing operator Asset Campus Housing, are designing, constructing and will operate this multi-purpose area.

The principals of the Bahamian-owned Providence Investment and Development Company Ltd. have advised that construction of Phase 1 is anticipated to be completed by June 2021, and Phase 2 is scheduled to be completed by November 2021.

Prime Minister Minnis said the groundbreaking marked the start of one of the single largest investments in the Over-the-Hill community in the country’s history.

Given the particular vulnerabilities posed by severe weather produced by Hurricane Dorian, the project team modified the design to mitigate against potential wind damage and flooding, said the Prime Minister.

The design and construction is based on climate change adaptation. Building for resilience was a fundamental consideration, Prime Minister Minnis noted.

“Once completed, this University and Residence and Multi-Purpose Complex will help to revitalize surrounding communities, injecting new vitality and providing opportunities for community engagement and business investments,” said the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Minnis said his administration has been resolute in its determination to revitalize Over-the-Hill communities, particularly through several innovative initiatives.

“We are vigorously supporting small- and medium-sized businesses by providing them with the incentives and assistance needed to nurture the dreams and develop the skills and talents of Bahamian entrepreneurs,” said Prime Minister Minnis.

“We are also encouraging absentee landowners to re-develop their ancestral homes, properties and abandoned buildings.”

The Prime Minister also pointed to the creation of tax-free economic zones in Over-the-Hill communities to encourage business growth and spur job-creation, and legislation that allows for duty free concessions on construction materials and building supplies used in the construction of business premises and new and/or refurbished owner-occupied homes.

The Government is also helping to develop these tax-free economic zones within a safe and clean environment with each zone addressing the socio-economic situation in the area, through tripartite arrangements with landlords, government agencies and Bahamian investors, said Prime Minister Minnis.