SLB Targets Students in Critical Disciplines


In an effort to ensure that Jamaica’s tertiary institutions produce graduates of varying disciplines, which is critical to national development, the Student Loan Bureau (SLB) has devised various methods to steer potential graduates into selected areas of ‘preferential’ study.
“We know that for any country, or for any company, to develop, it has to have areas that are linked to its strategic direction or strategic goals. That is a stated fact. What we want to do is to identify those strategic areas that need skills and competencies,” Executive Director of the Bureau, Lenice Barnett, tells JIS News.
“We want to incentivise those persons to select those areas of studies, so that we will have the pool of our cadre increase with those persons with those skills,” she added.
She states that the preferred area, or the priority areas, would have more attractive loan terms, so that people who are forward planning would really want to look in that direction.
Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding, during his contribution to the Budget Debate recently, shed more light on the specifications of the terms and conditions, and the preferential areas of study.
“It is our intention to give special concessions to students pursuing studies in specific disciplines, for which a chronic shortage exists within the public sector,” he notes.
He says that the initial list of disciplines to which this applies, will be published shortly, and relate to skills in the health and agricultural sector, for which there is severe shortage.
Referring to the interest rate that would be charged on loans to students of these disciplines, Mr. Golding states that they will be reduced from 12 per cent to four per cent.
He further informs that, starting next year, additional funds will be provided to the SLB to enable it to meet the demand for higher loan amounts, to meet the increased tuition charges that will result from the rebalancing.
Mrs. Barnett contends that this strategy will make the whole matter of borrowing for study a lot more attractive and appealing to students.
The Executive Director notes that, while the Bureau will be implementing these measures, it does not mean that persons who fall outside of these categories will be unable to receive loans.
“What we want to do is to continue to operate as we are, but we want to select areas in keeping with the country’s strategic development pattern, (and) train people in those areas,” she says.
She states, however, that efforts would be made, nonetheless, to encourage loan seekers to select those areas of training.
Given the current global financial climate, Mrs. Barnett stresses that every effort is being made to ensure that the SLB is able to increase its momentum and to ensure that loans are available to students.
“One of the things that the SLB must ensure is to find more money to put more students in schools. If jobs aren’t available for example, or if parents are losing their income or having their income reduced, there will be less people with the ability to pay tuition fees. But, that doesn’t take the brain away from the child, so we have to make sure that we have money to send them off to school,” she posits.
Mr. Golding had reaffirmed this stance, pointing out that the Bureau has sufficient funds available to meet this year’s demand for loans.
For some students who have difficulties meeting the cost of transportation, boarding and meals, Mr. Golding said that, for this fiscal year, there will be a provision of $125 million to enable the Bureau to provide grants.
The current interest rate that is being paid on student loan is 12

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