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Student Loan Bureau requests more funds from HEART Trust

Published:Wednesday | July 29, 2015 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon
Chairman of HEART Trust/NTA, Dr Moses Peart.

The Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) has applied to HEART Trust/NTA for an additional $354 million to help fund its loan distributions for the upcoming academic year.

Chairman of HEART Trust Dr Moses Peart said the request was submitted to the newly minted board two weeks ago.

"They are requesting another $354 million, but we are not saying yes or no because the board has not yet fully considered it for a decision," Peart told Wednesday Business.

The board is awaiting a report from SLB to the HEART Trust's executive director outlining how it spent the last set of monies borrowed from the training agency last November before considering the latest request. Both entities are state-owned.

"We have done one tranche, but what we are not so comfortable with is that we don't yet see a report. We need to have some data to relate to in terms of meeting the needs of persons wanting to do technical and vocational subjects," the chairman said.

"If we are so informed, and we are encouraged to see that we are making progress consistent with what HEART is suppose to be doing, then the board, at its next meeting, will be in a better position to decide on continuing to support (the SLB)," he said.

HEART Trust/NTA was tapped for $250 million to help SLB, which fell short of cash to provide loans to its tertiary applicants.

in 'good financial health'

The disbursement was pulled from HEART's expenditure budget, Executive Director Dr Wayne Wesley told Wednesday Business, who said the agency was in "very good financial health" and in a position to help the loan agency.

"HEART is funded from the three per cent contribution from employers to facilitate the workforce development, education and training. So as an agency, we do finance projects and any other training initiatives that are consistent with the act," Wesley said

"Because it was fairly consistent with what we were supposed to be doing under the act, which is to fund training schemes, we said okay (to the first disbursement). But then, what we wanted was some conditionalities on it because HEART is focused on TVET (technical, vocational and educational training), and if they are going to assure us that they would be focused on those persons who are applying to do technical subjects, then we see no reason why we couldn't provide support," Peart said.

The HEART Trust board, which was installed on July 1, had its first meeting on Wednesday, Peart said, with its strategic planning retreat scheduled in another six weeks, at which point he hopes the SLB request will come up for consideration.

Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites told parliamentarians last week that the SLB hopes to distribute more than $4 billion this year in loans to applicants.

"It is their estimate that, based on previous levels, this will meet the reasonably expected demands," Thwaites said.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com