Jamaican students need a permanent SLB fee waiver! All Student loan applications from the Student Loan Bureau of Jamaica should be free of upfront application and processing fees. The following are part of our student loan fee waiver suggestion to the Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, Minister of Finance and the Public Service.
If the Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke and the Government of Jamaica intend to increase university and community college enrollment, enhance the development of our economy and reduce student debt. They need to implement the following or abbreviations of, with immediate effect.
Permanent processing and application fee payment adjustment by the SLB
The cost of processing a loan or the loan origination fee of student loans should be applied to the total loan disbursement. We are mentioning this strategy first, because its the most realistic short-term student loan Fee waiver strategy. This is similar to successful student loan policies of other developed economies.
[Also read COVID-19 Compassionate Grant Application Process]
Let’s say a student applies for a loan of J$1,050,000 which includes the application and processing fees amounting to 5% (J$50,000) of the entire student loan amount. If the student receives two disbursements of J$525,000 apiece, J$25,000 will be deducted from each J$525,000 disbursement and is pocketed by the SLB, leaving the student with a total net loan amount of J$1,000,000. But he or she still needs to pay back the original loan of J$1,050,000.
This SLB fee waiver, in the form of the above adjustment, immediately removes a major weight. The weight of finding a qualified loan guarantor. Additionally, the stress of finding the sum of thousands of dollars required to pay upfront in submitting ones application.
Reduce all SLB loan rates
We commend the Minister of Finance and the Public Service on the recent reduction on the SLB’s student loan lending rates from a high of 9% to rates as low as 5.8% (5.8%*1,000,000 = $58,000) per annum – good start!
If we are serious about improving the lives of our students and their parents, the lending rates should be lowered to 1.9% pa. We may go even further by applying this new rate with the removal or replacement of all processing and application fees.
[Also you can read “How I made it through University Debt Free”]
The lower the student loan interest rate, the more willing students and their parents will be to finance their tertiary education. Application would increase for both local and for study abroad programs with a SLB loan. Generally, when borrows pay less in interest, this gives them more money to spend. Higher spending power will create a ripple effect of increased spending throughout the economy.
Simultaneously, the bureau will benefit from lower interest rates. Lower interest will encourage persons who may have never taught of returning to school, to reconsider the cost of a post-graduate programmes. This, solely due to low cost of borrowing a student loan. A reduction in lending interest rates will create an increase in economy output, creativity and productivity.
Reduce processing and application fee
We need to reduce the rates of all the Student Loan Bureau’s application and processing fees with immediate effective. Firstly, we acknowledge the high rates of loan approval – awesome! These rates cannot be an insurance for the risk associated with low loan repayment issues that the bureau continue to suffer from. We need permanent student loan fee waiver!
High SLB application, processing and lending fees will continue to be a deterrent to students. From our experiences, most student neither has the money to pay these fees nor the ability to find a qualified guarantors. We need permanent fee waivers!
[Also you can read “Why students are seeking tuition refunds/reduction during COVID-19”]
Increase scholarship and grant opportunities
Finally, this should be the first change. We need more scholarship opportunities! Not enough scholarships are being offered though the Government of Jamaica or from private and public companies.
Make scholarship donation a percentage of each companies’ profit/surplus. We know this is possible as there are so many medium to large local corporations that boast billions in profits annually.
Earmark a portion of each constituencies budget dedicated to scholarships and other cost associated with education. The Constituency Development Fund (CDF) seeks to improve the effectiveness of Members of Parliament as a designated funding mechanism for constituency projects. This, according to the Office Of the Prime Minister (OPM), which manages the fund.
According to the OPM, The main thrust of the Fund is to promote human and infrastructure development at the community and constituency levels through the establishment of sustainable development projects. This will be done by streamlining economic activities at the Constituency level; fostering local governance, including good environmental stewardship; improving service delivery and bring government and the public closer together; and increasing the effectiveness of the elected representative.
With the current CDF structure, its easy to adjust each budget with a 20-30% dedicated to education. Additional funding could be received from local and international companies, individuals and NGOs operating in the respective parishes.
Scholarship Donation Tax Incentives
Implement an attractive tax incentive progamme geared towards enticing the private and public sector companies to offer more meaning scholarship programmes. Donors can only deduct contributions made to tax-exempt scholarship funds.
Scholarship donors would be able to apply and receive a partial or complete tax-exempt status from the Tax Administration of Jamaica equal to the value of scholarship money offered during the tax financial year. New scholarship funds could act as tax-exempt organizations by soliciting donations and filing the applicable tax returns while waiting for the TAJ to decide on their application.
Donors could also deduct contributions made during that time. However, if the TAJ denies the application, those deductions will be disallowed.
Ministry of Government Targeted Scholarships
Each Government Ministry should be offering scholarship opportunities to students. The targeting process of these ministries should be geared towards their ministry’s portfolio of responsibilities. In that, for example, the Ministry of Tourism should have an establish pipeline that funnels high school students through scholarship and internship programmes to their tourism specialization at local or regional institutions.
Ministries should identify fields of interest such as STEM studies that are of high demand in the country’s development and incentivize students through bonded-scholarships, internships and other career development programmes.
Contractor General Awarded Scholarships
The Contractor General in awarding contracts (make it a requirement) could require that a 5% – 10% of the contract value be awarded to an educational fund. This fund will cover educational expenses of students in the parish or county where the contracted work will be done.
The management of these education/scholarship funds would be administered by the constituency fund with input from the respective parish councils and education ministry.
Let us committee and discuss how we can implement these suggested strategies Honorable Minister and Team!