Students applying for loans from the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB) for the upcoming academic year will not be required to pay application and processing fees to the lending agency.
Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke made the announcement last evening during the debate on the first supplementary estimates for the 2020/21 fiscal year in the Lower House of Parliament last evening.
The Minister said “The Government of Jamaica’s (GOJ’s) commitment to ensuring that tertiary education remains affordable and accessible to all Jamaicans, remains stronger than ever.” Dr. Clarke emphasized that it is especially important, given the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated global and domestic economic shock, that appropriate steps are taken by the GOJ to facilitate access to funding for tertiary education.
“I want to take the opportunity to remind all respective Student Loan applicants that notwithstanding the challenges posed by COVID-19, the Students’ Loan Bureau remains open for business,” Clarke said.
“We want our students to be able to access and to continue their education,” the finance minister added. Also read how to make it through university debt free!
This temporary measure is part of a suite of policy initiatives implemented by the GOJ, to make accessing loans from the SLB, and by extension obtaining a tertiary education, more feasible and attainable.
Minister Clarke, under whose Ministry the SLB falls, in March of this year announced and implemented reduced rates on student loans (rates are now as low as 5.8%), extended periods for payback to begin (increased from 6 to 14 months after graduation) while also providing for the forgiveness of student loans for those who work in the non-profit sector.
Reduction in SLB’s Loan Applications
Earlier when the Standing Finance Committee was reviewing the revised budget, Clarke told his parliamentary colleagues that with the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer students have approached the SLB to access loans.
He said that applications for student loans have declined significantly.
This development is of concern to the bureau as it wants to ensure that the enrollment rate for tertiary studies in the society remains high, Clarke said.
He said that the SLB carried out an analysis of why applications had plunged and found that persons were not coming forward to apply because they did not have the resources to pay the costs associated with accessing the loans.
Data from the SLB shows that prior to COVID-19, some 99 per cent of applicants received loans. Also read make your scholarship application standout.
“The rejection rate is minuscule, almost non-existent, everybody virtually, but one per cent, who walks through the door and applies, gets through,” Clarke said.
Despite the deferral of $2.7 billion in allocation to the SLB in the budget this fiscal year, the lending agency still has enough resources to offer loans to students this year.
The SLB has $6.2 billion to meet demands this year.