Sat | Feb 22, 2020

Glenford Smith | Student loan conundrum

Published:Sunday | March 4, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Two experiences have moved me to write this article. The first catalytic event was on February 11, 2018. The Sunday Gleaner carried an article titled 'SLB to Name and Shame Hard-Core Delinquents', which stirred up a well of contrasting emotions within me.

On one hand, I could understand the need for the Students Loan Bureau to be repaid.

But on the other, I sympathised with past students who cannot land a job, and with those who eventually find a job but with very minimum pay, and for whom paying back the SLB seems to not be a priority.

The second involved an incident with a young woman who regularly reads my column and reached out to me to share her story about her frustration and despondency. She was in tears. She was now facing the prospect of the embarrassment of seeing her name in the papers, to be put there by the SLB. Her mother, who is a single parent, was seriously ill and in constant need of medication.

She could not get a job at first after she left university. Then she got one paying her a paltry sum, which she lost because of the amount of time she needed to tend to her mother. She then got another job, which paid better, but the time she needed wasn't working out. They had to let her go. Now she's a freelancer.

The toll it was taking on her was very brutal, which you could hear through the tears.

For the most part, I listened with a sympathising ear. After all, she was calling me because she read my personal story online and was calling for some help, seeing that I had gone through what she was going through. I told her a few things, primarily to get in touch with the SLB and discuss her situation with them. That was practical and something she could do.

I also suggested to her, to help her mindset, that this too shall pass. It might not seem so now, but her troubles will one day be a valued memory.

I understand the problems the SLB is having. You see, I was a beneficiary of the SLB too; and a very grateful one at that. I was out of a job for several months and I got my letters from the SLB, and though I was not employed, the letters kept on coming. So I understand what that student and many others have to deal with.

The SLB lumps all of us into one group delinquents. But I was delinquent only because I couldn't get a job. Those who are earning any money at all must make arrangements to pay back their loan. So as soon as I got a job, I went by the SLB and made the arrangements to pay back my loan, plus interest.

Other students would do anything not to pay back their loan. They lie about where they live; they leave their guarantors with huge sums that they have to look to pay back; and they hide. They felt they were owed this money.

Their sense of entitlement is a wrong one, and so one can have no sympathy for them when their names appear in the newspapers or they face some other legal repercussion.

Those of you who can't repay your loans because you have no job, be brave. Go talk to the SLB. Explain your situation to them. Keep them up to date on your progress on finding a job.

- Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'.