NASSAU, The Bahamas, Tuesday March 1, 2016 – Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald has put recipients of the Education Loan Programme (ELP) on notice that if they fail to repay their loans they will face court action.
Despite the many “success” stories coming out of the ELP, he maintained that there were also a number of failings which have “derailed” the programme.
Since passage of the Act in 2002, a total of 4,733 people have benefited from the programme. But the initiative was suspended in August 2009 because of a 75 per cent delinquency rate in loan repayments.
“This was and is clearly unsustainable. The people of the Bahamas financed this programme to assist with the education of persons pursuing tertiary education. The loan portfolio is intended to be a revolving fund; and as the borrower pays, the monies are repaid to assist other qualified students,” Fitzgerald said at a press conference yesterday.
“I must emphasize that many loan recipients have satisfied and are satisfying their commitments. There are many more, however, for a plurality of reasons, who have not. We are aware that many persons who received loans have returned home and are not working. We are also equally aware that there is a possibility that a number of persons who received funds between 2000 and 2002 may not have ever attended school. However, we are cognizant of our fiduciary responsibility to the country and that we had to formulate a plan that would sensibly facilitate our pursuit to collect delinquent funds, one way or the other.”
Fitzgerald explained that, with a view of jumpstarting the programme, the ELA was mandated to review the suspended it with the intention of making recommendations to restarting to give an opportunity to qualified persons interested in pursuing tertiary education.
He said that after three years of reviewing and reconciling records, the Education Loan Authority now has a formula to address and correct the deficiencies of the ELP.
“I can assure that the Directors and Management of the Education Loan Authority (ELA) were instructed to work fastidiously, to come up with a solution to . . . not only restore the programme, but to restore the programme with the necessary control provisions to ensure its ongoing sustainability and viability,” the minister said.
Fitzgerald re-emphasized government’s position that “one of the prerequisites for successfully delivering our commitment to the creation of an effective transition path from high school into higher education had to be the restoration of the Scholarship Loan Programme.”
On October 21, 2015 the Education Loan (Amendment) Act 2015 came into force. In addition to collecting funds, the new Act addresses delinquencies, rewards borrowers who are paying and/or genuinely want to honour their obligations, and empowers the ELA to collect funds.