Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
AS THE Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) scrambles to secure additional funds to finance tertiary education this year, Monica Brown, executive director of the agency, says negotiations are at an advanced stage with the Caribbean Development Bank and the Jamaica Bankers' Association.
The SLB is working feverishly to plug a $2.5-billion shortfall in its budget as it tries to come up with the $4.2 billion in loans being sought by tertiary-level students.
"In 2007, we paid out $800 million in loans to students ... since then, there has been a major increase in the number of students, hence the increase in the amount required," said Brown.
"This year we have 16,000 students for whom we are required to pay $4.2 billion … this is a steep increase which is very challenging."
Brown told The Gleaner the SLB had secured a portion of the funds and was optimistic that the remainder would be garnered with assistance from the PetroCaribe agreement.
no subvention received
There is now growing uncertainty as to how the bureau will perform for the 2013 fiscal year.
The SLB boss further explained that the bureau did not receive a subvention from the Government and had to rely on the repayment of loans and interest to be able to offer new loans.
"We do not know how things are going to work for next year because we are having a serious problem with delinquency," said Brown. "It is a major difficulty because statistics indicate that 49 per cent of graduates from tertiary institutions in 2010 are still unemployed, so they are unable to service their loans."
The SLB is currently struggling with a 30 per cent delinquency rate of borrowers.
Teachers head the list of the bureau's loan portfolio with 5,000 loans; nurses number 1,900 and students who pursue business administration collectively claim at least 50 per cent of the total.
Loans are disbursed to students at a rate of nine per cent and the borrowers are required to begin repaying the loans six months after graduation.
The SLB funds approximately 30 per cent of the island's tertiary students.