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Students' Loan Bureau gets US$20m boost

Published:Friday | March 1, 2013 | 12:00 AM

THE STUDENTS' Loan Bureau (SLB) is to receive loans totalling US$20 million from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to finance tuitions for tertiary-level students.

Cabinet, at its regular meeting on Monday, gave approval for Government to guarantee the loans. The bank is also providing a grant of US$175,000.

Making the announcement at Wednesday's Jamaica House press briefing, minister with responsibility for information Sandrea Falconer explained that the loans "will facilitate the provision of affordable and adequate financing to students from poor and vulnerable households to complete tertiary-level programmes in approved institutions in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean".

Senator Falconer noted that applications have increased from 6,000 students with a loan request of $1.8 billion in 2007/08, to more than 16,000 students requesting loans of $14.8 billion in the 2012/13 fiscal year.

It is based on this demand, and the Government's inability to increase the level of support to tertiary institutions, that the SLB has sought to replenish its resources by accessing loan support from the CDB.

Last month, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites indicated that the Government will be increasing provisions to the SLB in the new financial year, as it continues to give priority to education.

Focusing on collections

Meanwhile, the SLB is focusing on collections, among other measures, to increase its funding pool.

Executive Director Monica Brown recently said without collection being at an adequate level, the bureau would be "very challenged" in delivering its services.

In 2011, the agency recovered some $100 million through a two-month amnesty, which waived 100 per cent of all late fees and a percentage of the insurance and interest amount on loans.

The SLB provides funding for some 30 per cent of the island's tertiary students.