A GOVERNMENT member of parliament (MP) has suggested that the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) offers an amnesty to delinquents to improve its revenue collection.
The suggestion, which was ignored by Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips when he closed the debate on a resolution for a loan guarantee to the SLB, involves a write-off of interests.
"I use this opportunity for us to ask whether we could consider an amnesty for those students who have benefited from the Students' Loan [Bureau] and are currently delinquent," Campbell suggested.
"If we are able to provide an amnesty for them to come in and pay what they owe, without the interest, we could aid in recouping some funds to have that additional funding available for the upcoming academic year."
Monica Brown, SLB executive director, last year told a parliamentary committee that the bureau is owed $2.9 billion in unpaid loans.
The North West St Ann MP currently has a motion on the Order Paper calling for the Human Resource and Social Development Committee to be mandated to urgently examine the adequacy and affordability of funding tertiary education in Jamaica.
On Tuesday, he said one of the areas on which light must be shone is that of the cost of operating tertiary institutions.
"The tuition fees that our children are being asked to pay have been increasing at an alarming rate and there must be a way that we can work with tertiary institutions to ensure that the students are not asked to pay a 10 per cent increase every year," Campbell said.
"If it is that they are depending on student loans and every year the tuition goes up, it does not take rocket science to figure out that the sums of money that you have available at the bureau won't be able to provide loans for returning students."
In the meantime, North East Manchester MP Audley Shaw said the Government should consider tapping areas such as the PetroCaribe Development Fund to support the SLB.
"Let us tack on a two or three per cent nominal on it and lend that money to our students," Shaw said, adding that the interest on the PetroCaribe facility is one per cent.
He urged the Parliament to be "revolutionary" in its thinking and try to get cheap money into the loan programme so more students can benefit from loans.
In 2011, Shaw, as minister of finance, oversaw the lowering of the interest rate from 12 to nine per cent and also an extension of the repayment period from 10 years to 15 years.