What the future of SLB should be

There have been numerous publications about the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) in the media, reiterating that "the delinquency rate now stands at approximately 30 per cent, with approximately $2 billion outstanding in arrears". Before I divulge much into figures, let's first take a look at how it all started.

So, you are finally seeing the end of your high school days and you are thinking about tertiary education. You’ve chosen colleges and have submitted applications. And then… reality hits you. “How will I pay for the next phase of my education?” It may be a college, university, a diploma or certificate course, but, whatever it is, financing higher education in Jamaica is a problem that most if not all, university and college students face. Not knowing where the next lump sum is coming from to shield you from ‘leave of absence’, sometimes called ‘deregistration’ can be stressful.

For Jamaicans, the most obvious solution to tuition funding is the Students Loan Bureau (SLB). The SLB works with its list of approved institutions, and offers full tuition payment for students at 9 per cent interest per year (arguably it's the most reasonable policy to date), and gives borrowers 10 years for repayment. You do not need to begin repaying the loan until six months after you have finished studying.

With a high unemployment rate, many of its beneficiaries are jobless, many have become hopeless, many still struggle for the realization of their dreams. Situation like this, should be a national call for concern, hence, we asked, what then would be the ideal solution to recover for loans, so as to ensure the sustainability of the programme.
I hereby, propose that a link be forged between SLB delinquents and National Youth Service (NYS), with the understanding that NYS be modified so as to include an increase in its age group as well as time spent on assigned jobs, i.e. from 6 weeks to 1 year (reciepents will be reviewed yearly).

How will this work? Delinquent beneficiaries of SLB still possess qualifications that are of value to our country. With an economy such as ours, characterised by low/no growth, our public entities are basically stretching the minimal resources available to them. As such, we are currently experiencing a shortage of qualified personnel within our many public sector entities.

I can attest to the scarcity of teachers in our many schools. I can attest to the scarcity of child care assistants in our children’s place of safety, I can attest to a scarcity of nursing aides, and I can so too attest to the many delinquent beneficiaries who are teachers, nurse l, etc., who are yet to be employed. Why not utilize these many professions through the proposed modified NYS programme? Why not we have these many promising minds being employed through the modified NYS programme with the understanding that the recipient will be provided with a lunch stipend, while a percentage of their salary is contributed to the SLB, until the individual is formally employed. Not only will this ease the burden that SLB currently faces, but will also provide great experience for our qualified young persons, while fulfilling a needed gap.

Many countries across the region, have SMART policies in place, geared at assisting loan payment, particularly for students.. One such country is America.. Of the many policies, inplace are their Teachers Loan Forgiveness policy, that is, If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in certain elementary and secondary schools and educational service agencies that serve low-income families, and meet other qualifications, you may be eligible for forgiveness of up to a combined total of $17,500 on certain federal student loans. Also too is their Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), that is, If you work full-time for a government or not-for-profit organization you may qualify for forgiveness of the entire remaining balance of your Direct Loans after you’ve made 120 qualifying payments—that is, 10 years of payments. Another policy is the Military Service, that is, In acknowledgement of your service to the country, there are special benefits and repayment options for your student loans available from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Defense, such as interest rate caps under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, other interest rate relief, and student loan repayment programs. And finally, the AmeriCorps, which is a post-service benefit, received by participants who complete a term of national service in an approved AmeriCorps program—AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps NCCC, or AmeriCorps State and National. Upon successful completion of the service, members are eligible to receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award which can be used to repay qualified student loans.

While we believe that, delinquency is not something to be cushioned, we have to take into consideration our now fragile economy, hence, a workable solution must be in place so as to mitigate delinquency without compromising.