Education Minister responds to Opposition on SLB allocations

RonaldThwaites-2Kingston, Jamaica — Education Minister Ronald Thwaites today said that the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB) approved 90 per cent of its loan applications for the current academic year, and there was no need to grant preferential treatment based on students’ programmes of study.

Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) spokesperson on education and youth, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, yesterday issued a statement asking the minister to clarify the Government’s position on the treatment of Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) applicants by the SLB.

Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Finance, Thwaites explained that preferential treatment arises where funds are inadequate. In such instances the Government would give priority to students pursuing programmes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

He added that the loan funding of $250 million from the HEART Trust to the SLB was specifically to finance students enrolled in STEM programmes.

In clarifying questions raised by Johnson Smith, the education minister disclosed that no student who met the lending criteria of SLB was denied a loan.

The ministry noted in a press release that a total of 13,806 loans, valuing $4.6 billion, were disbursed to applicants covering 17 programmes. Business administration and social sciences had the largest group of loan beneficiaries (3,485), followed by education (2,232), sciences (1,755), nursing (1,536), and medicine (1,135).

Thwaites highlighted several measures that have been introduced to increase access to financing from the SLB. These include removal of the add-on interest rate formula and replacement by simple interest; relaxation of the guarantor requirements; inclusion of revenue from the additional Education Tax; and the injection of new funding from HEART Trust.

He further noted that the SLB had a 30 per cent increase in loan repayments for 2014 and that there was adequate funding in place for the 2015/2016 academic year.

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