THE Ministry of Education is seeking to secure additional funds for the Students Loan Bureau (SLB), as part of efforts to accommodate as many applications who need funding for their tertiary education.
Education Minister Ronnie Thwaites said officers of the ministry have been engaged in dialogue with representatives of commercial banks and other financial institutions "to try and attract private capital into the (tertiary education) system".
Addressing the Northern Caribbean University's (NCU) colloquium, at its main campus in Mandeville, Manchester on Monday, Thwaites pointed out that the initiative comes against the background of depletion of the SLB finances, consequent on the reported high rate of delinquency among borrowers.
"The Students Loan Bureau does good work but the terms and conditions on which it has been funded exclude too many. And regretfully, even those 10,000 or 12,000 applicants who are (approved) each year... a high percentage of them do not honour their obligations. Therefore, the heavy level of delinquency depletes those capital funds and prevents them from revolving, to the detriment of newcomers into the loan scheme," the minister pointed out.
Noting that the procurement of additional funds is being undertaken "with great difficulty," the minister stressed the need for the SLB's clients to fulfill their obligations to the institution.
"The task of transforming education in Jamaica has to speak to this issue. If you borrow in order to further your own education you must be enjoined to pay it back. We will have to strengthen the (regulations) to ensure that students meet their obligations. This is something that will not be necessarily pleasant. It will be constraining, but it is absolutely necessary," the minister said.
At the same time, Thwaites said the ministry was exploring the possibility of lowering the interest rate on student loans, which according to the SLB website, is currently at nine per cent. Additionally, he advised that efforts will also be made to link loan repayments to the "employment prospects" of the students after graduation.
The NCU's colloquium, held under the theme "The Relevance of Seventh-Day Adventist Higher Education in Today's Global Environment", was convened to unveil and discuss plans for the institution's expansion and development. Over 100 delegates and guests attended the two-day seminar, which ended yesterday.