The Patrick Hylton-led committee looking into identifying a pool of money to fund the Student Loan Bureau (SLB) is expected to make a report in April.
Recognising the severe financial challenges facing the bureau, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites had asked Hylton, who is managing director of the National Commercial Bank, to examine private funding for the student-loan system.
Addressing a session on financing higher education at the University of the West Indies' (UWI) Rex Nettleford Hall on Monday, special adviser in the ministry, Dr Franklin Johnston, said that the recommendations were to be implemented before the start of the new academic year.
Dr Johnston told the scores of students who attended the meeting that education could no longer be viewed as welfare but as an investment.
He noted that private for-profit institutions of higher education were gaining strength in Jamaica and that approximately 40 per cent of degrees were granted by them. He pointed out that students provide their own funding to attend these institutions.
The special adviser was emphatic however, that the Government had no policy to privatise higher education.
He further urged students to look at the requirements of the labour market and let that guide their choice of study.
Assistant General Manager of Jamaica National (JN), Brando Hayden, who is also a member of the above-mentioned committee, said that while the problem of student loan funding was universal, Jamaica needed to find its own solutions. He pointed out that parents should plan for their children's education as soon as they are born.
Hayden's company was promoting its JN Educare Loan at the event, which is offering students up to $500,000 at 17.5 per cent per annum to fund their tertiary education, with six to 24 months for repayment.
In the meantime, Public Relations Manager of the SLB, Analisa Downes-Allen, informed that the bureau currently funds 30 per cent of tertiary-level education. She noted there has been an increase in demand for loans in recent years, moving from 6,000 applicants in 2007 to almost 17,000 in 2012.
Downes-Allen pointed out that the bureau could not sustain itself unless persons repay their loans and currently, there is a high rate of delinquency. She suggested that, where possible, students should make payments on their loans while still attending school.
Another panellist, attorney-at-law Floyd Green, called for the further lowering of interest rates on students' loans; an extension of the period in which the loan is repaid; and a move to make the loan repayment income-dependent.