More Students to Qualify for SLB Grants

The government will be increasing grant assistance under the Student Loan Programme for the 2007/08 academic year, with the number of beneficiaries to move to 3,600 from 2,290 last year.
Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. Omar Davies, who made the announcement in the House of Representatives yesterday (April 12), where he opened the 2007/08 Budget Debate, noted that grants to students cost the government some $100 million last year and the increase would require an additional $60 million in funding, which would be provided through a concessionary loan from the Petrocaribe Fund.
“I am in the process of finalizing arrangements to receive a concessionary loan from the Petrocaribe Fund, which will facilitate this increase in grants awarded,” he informed.
Dr. Davies pointed out that despite the challenges in the education sector many students from low income households were able to access tertiary level education through the Students Loan Bureau (SLB).
“In the last academic year, the SLB made loans totaling over $815 million to approximately 6,650 students, most of whom are attending the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology,” the Finance Minister informed.
Turning to the operations at the SLB, Dr. Davies informed that efforts have been made to improve service delivery, which includes allowing students to qualify for loans throughout the duration of their studies without the need to go through the tedious annual application process.
He noted that the operations at the facility should be seen as “work in progress.”
“It should be recalled that the government only reassumed full responsibility for managing the loan portfolio when the fund was virtually decapitalized under the management of private sector institutions. In fact, when the government assumed responsibility, bad loans accounted for approximately 75 per cent of total loans disbursed compared with the current 19.6 per cent and we are aiming to do better,” he stated.

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