News

SLB applications more than doubled in six years

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor - features thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 12, 2014    

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THE number of students seeking to access government loans to finance their tertiary education has more than doubled in the six years since 2007, the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) has said.

The bureau's executive director, Monica Brown told the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange that it received more than 15,300 applications for the 2013/2014 academic year, compared to 6,600 in 2007/08.

"This has resulted in a significant increase in the amount of funds disbursed by the SLB. In 2006 (we) disbursed about $840 million. In 2013/2014 we expect to disburse about $3.9 billion, so that shows you the magnitude of the increased demand and the increased disbursement," Brown said.

Charting the figures for each year over the period, the SLB head said there were 7,500 applications in 2008/2009, with a disbursement of $1.1 billion; 8,700 in 2009/2010 with $1.6 billion disbursed; 9,970 in 2009/10 with $2 billion disbursed; 13,600 in 2011/2012 with $2.7 billion disbursed; and 16,600 in 2012/2013 with $3.6 million disbursed.

"One of the things driving the increased demand and disbursement is the significant increase noted in the tuition fees charged by the universities," Brown said. "They have moved from about $130,000 in 2007 to $305,000 in 2013/2014... and the increases have been well above the average inflation rate," she continued, pointing out that the tuition amounts were averages.

Also driving the demand is the growth in the number of students seeking acceptance into tertiary institutions over the years.

"We now fund approximately 30 per cent of the students who are enrolled in universities and other tertiary institutions," Brown said. The most popular disciplines based on the applications, she added, are business and social sciences, education, the sciences, nursing, and medicine, in that order.

The SLB is financed primarily by loan repayments, a percentage of the education tax, and loans from the private sector. It collects $104 million per month in repayments as per the data for 2013/2014.

The bureau is now accepting applications from returning students for the 2014/2015 school year and will open the process for new students next week, Monday, March 17. It expects the amount of loans disbursed for that year to reach $4.8 billion.

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