KINGSTON — The Student Loan Bureau (SLB) continues to provide financing for tertiary education, approving $9.8 billion in loans in 2010.
Prime Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness, said the figure, which represents an increase over the $4 billion approved in 2000, indicates that the SLB loan applications and approval process continues to grow.
He was responding to a private members motion in the House of Representatives on November 15 brought by Member of Parliament for Central Kingston, Rev. Ronald Thwaites, on the adequacy of affordable loan financing for tertiary students.
In 2000, the SLB received 6,115 applications with 4,047 approved, 1,165 declined and 371 cancelled. By 2010, loan applications had increased to 9,973, with 9,899 approved.
"In terms of performance the student loan has approved over 90 per cent of loans applied for and declined 34 loans. It is clear that the demand for tertiary financing is increasing in an exponential way," Mr. Holness stated.
Mr. Holness informed that approximately 64,000 students were enrolled in tertiary institutions in the country.
He said the SLB's loan portfolio now stands at approximately $7.7 billion, with approximately 10,000 loans being serviced totalling about $3.3 billion.
The Prime Minister said that even though the budgetary allocation for tertiary education has not increased, the Government is trying to source additional funding to increase the pool of SLB funds. He stated that the way in which tertiary education is funded needs to be reformed.
"It has not been a very easy task to do. There are many stakeholders… I have tried to advance the debate, but I believe that given the financial constraints that we have now, I don’t believe we are able to avoid making some significant changes in the way in which tertiary education is financed," Mr. Holness said.
Rev. Thwaites, in his motion, recommended that the government develop a scheme, which encourages private capital to fund tertiary education.
"This can be done through benefits, grants and trust that have traditionally been significant in fostering tertiary education everywhere. Further, there must be a factoring of loan finance, which comes from the financial sector, suitably secure, but not in a way to exclude those who have no landed security, and at a reasonable rate of interest," Rev. Thwaites said.
He however added that in order for this to work, there needs to be an appropriate system of bonding of the beneficiaries.
Debate on the motion was suspended so as to allow other members of the House of Representatives to participate.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter