THERE HAS been a 97 per cent increase in the number of loans disbursed by the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) in the past five years.
The 2011-2012 annual report of the bureau, which was tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, indicates that the number of applications which were accepted and for which loans were disbursed rose from 5,132 in 2007-2008 to 10,090 last year.
At the same time, the amount of money disbursed increased by 224 per cent or $1.895 billion as disbursements jumped from $845 million in 2007-2008 to $2.74 billion last year.
The data published by the SLB indicates that 13,600 applied for student loans last year, up from 6,600 in 2007-2008.
"The SLB continues to be challenged by the significant increase in applications and this is compounded by the related increased tuition costs levied by the institutions," the bureau said in its annual report.
"The need for adequate funding to satisfy the growing demand is therefore of critical importance. The exponential growth in demand for student loans, especially over the past five years, far outweighs the funds available to effect the required disbursements. Consequently, periodic capital injection is needed in order to satisfy the current and projected demand," the bureau added.
SLB Chairman Tony Lewars told Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee that the lending agency was in a "predicament" as it relates to identifying new sources to fund the J$6.4 billion needed for the 2013-2014 academic year.
The SLB's legal officer Shellian O'Gere also told the committee that 58 per cent of beneficiaries of the SLB are unemployed.
In its annual report, the bureau noted the rate of repayment remains "too low to assist in sustaining the fund".
"The resultant delinquency problem is compounded by the high rate of unemployment in the economy which negatively affects the SLB beneficiaries and their ability to repay their loans," the bureau said.