Monique Grange, Assistant News Editor
The Gleaner/Power 106 News Centre
The Studentsí Loan Bureau (SLB), is seeking to assure that all its financial commitments for the current academic year 2012-2013 will be met.
In October, the agency was facing a shortfall of $2.5 billion.
However this morning, SLB Executive Director Monica Brown told the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee that funding has been identified to fill that gap.
Brown explained that the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has approved a loan of $20 million to assist in closing the gap.
However, she noted that the drawdown of the CDB loan is contingent on certain preconditions including the issue of a guarantee by the Jamaican government.
She said the CDB will also be providing US$175,000 to facilitate a study on the SLB which will, among other things, focus on the prioritisation of lending and the proposal to offer incentives for certain programmes of study.
Brown said funding to meet the demand for the current academic year will also be provided through the PetroCaribe Development Fund and the Ministry of Finance.
She said the Ministry of Finance has indicated that it will be providing $350 million.
Brown said the SLB will need the funds from the CDB in the first quarter of this year, in order to continue disbursements to the tertiary institutions.
Meanwhile, the SLB executive director said the agency has not received any information from any institution that would indicate that students are facing deregistration after completing the application process.
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In the meantime, there are indications that many persons who may seek loans from the SLB for the 2013-2014 academic year may not receive funding as the bureauís coffers are seriously low.
Officials of the SLB told the PAAC this morning that the agency will need an estimated $6.9 billion for the upcoming year.
They stressed that the inflow from repayments remain low and the bureau has little money in its reserves.
Applications for SLB loans for the upcoming academic year open in two weeks and the agency is expected to receive thousands of applications.
Chairman of the SLB, Tony Lewars, said the bureau has a responsibility to maintain its financial health and as such it will not approve loans unless it is has the money to make the payouts.
Committee member Mike Henry said this is a grave situation adding that the Ministry of Finance must move to provide assurances that funds will be made available to the SLB.
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