SLB to Strengthen Client Engagement Strategies

The Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB) plans to employ several initiatives to strengthen its customer engagement strategies for fiscal year 2024/25.These, the entity notes, include implementation of its loan management system by the first quarter of 2024/25, restructuring loans to facilitate lower monthly payments, and an expansion of product offerings to include certification and professional online programmes.

This, according to the Jamaica Public Bodies Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year ending March 2025.The Bureau also plans to increase its public education and marketing strategies to improve customer satisfaction and brand product awareness, which it believes will help to generate a net surplus of more than $2 billion and maintain a staff complement of 135.

The SLB says it will continue to provide funding to students through three loan products: Targeted Loans; Pay-As-You-Study (PAYS) loans; and the Postgraduate (PG) Loans.Targeted Loans comprise approximately 99 per cent of the loan portfolio, with applicants benefiting from an extended moratorium period (in-school-years) before repayment.

The PAYS and PG products do not have the moratorium feature and are earmarked for growing the portfolio.The SLB disburses funds to approved tertiary institutions on behalf of eligible applicants to finance their undergraduate or postgraduate studies.For fiscal year 2024/25, the Bureau projects disbursements of $4.92 billion compared to $7.1 billion the previous year.

The 2023/24 disbursements include arrears of approximately $3.5 billion, which would have been paid to the institutions by the end of the year.The SLB will be providing funding for students attending 34 approved tertiary institutions, including universities, teachers’ colleges and community colleges.This will support various programmes of study, including business administration and social sciences, sciences, nursing, pharmacology, education, humanities, agriculture, engineering, information technology, hospitality and tourism management, law, maritime, medicine, sports education and theology.

During the 2023/24 fiscal year, the Government implemented a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) scholarship programme in collaboration with the SLB.Accordingly, new students enrolling at the University of Technology (UTech) Jamaica and The Mico University College (MUC), commencing in September 2023, were eligible for the Government’s STEM tertiary scholarships.

This programme was designed to improve human capacity development in STEM studies at the tertiary level by attracting, motivating and maintaining qualified and high-potential graduates and strengthening tertiary training capacity to develop an adequate supply of STEM graduates, with a targeted total of 1,000 over five cohorts.

The SLB says that, to date, $220 million has been disbursed to approximately 366 beneficiaries, comprising 207 students from the MUC and 159 from UTech.Since April 1, 2024, SLB applicants do not require guarantors to access tertiary financing.This was announced by Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, during the 2024/25 Budget Debate in Parliament.

Dr. Clarke pointed out that the requirement of a guarantor for student loans is regressive, as it discriminates against low-income families who cannot easily, if at all, find guarantors.“The policy has been in place for several decades and we are happy to abolish the requirement for guarantors for student loans,” he told fellow Parliamentarians.Dr. Clarke further informed that an assessment of the data related to SLB delinquency revealed that payments are rarely made by guarantors.