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$156m Owed In Student Loan Debts

This week, Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd said 'something is wrong' with the country’s educational system.

This week, Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd said 'something is wrong' with the country’s educational system.

By KHRISNA VIRGIL

Deputy Chief Reporter

kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

WHILE saying the government’s campaign promise of tuition-free university to Bahamians will come “in time,” Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd warned those owing the Education Loan Authority that they must pay up or face “grief” as he revealed that $156m is owed to the programme.

To date, there have been 4,700 student loans issued for 26 disciplines with a default rate of 75 per cent.

With the harsh reality of a Minnis administration operating with bare cupboards and the common theme of streamlining operations throughout the public sector during the 2017-2018 budget debate, Mr Lloyd issued a stern call to those who have been delinquent with payments.

“If you owe the government money, come and pay us. We’d be happy to accommodate whatever scheme designed to you,” the South Beach MP declared during his maiden address in the House of Assembly yesterday.

“If you don’t and we got to come and get you, grief is your fate.

“I leave that right there, Mr Speaker. Because we cannot afford to be out of pocket a hundred and fifty plus million dollars, can’t happen. We have a shortfall in the scholarship programme in our ministry. We have a shortfall in the capital budget programme in our ministry. We have a shortfall all around, which can easily be made up if people were to come and pay what they owe.”

The huge sum of money owed dates back to the authority’s inception in 2001.

However, when the Bank of the Bahamas cut ties with the loan programme later, the former Ingraham administration made a decision to discontinue operations in 2009 because of its high default rate, Mr Lloyd said.

The minister questioned why it was that people simply do not want to pay the government what it is owed.

“I remember, Mr Speaker, when I left to go to college, I think there was an agreement I had to sign that if I took the Bahamian people’s money I had to return home and spend those years that I went away or you had an option, pay back the people’s money.

“Mr Speaker, by the time you rise and sit down, this issue will be addressed. If you are going to take our money you are going to provide an investment return on that money.

“You know the Educational Loan Authority, Mr Speaker? It is now basically been a collection agency. And I want to bring something to the attention our people.”

He continued: “Today Mr Speaker, since it was first started in 2001, there have been 4,700 student loans that were issued in 26 disciplines. To date the default rate is 75 per cent. What does that mean? People don’t pay back.

“It might be that we didn’t sell it properly. Some of our people have this belief that because its government’s money I don’t have to pay it back.

“It might be a problem that we have with the narrative (and) with the presentation. We don’t emphasise loan that has a corresponding obligation called repayment.

“Here is what that means, Mr Speaker. As you and I speak we are owed $156m buckaroos.

“That goes back to when it was established in 2001. Then the Bank of the Bahamas dropped out of it and in August of 2009 due to the high default rate the scheme was discontinued.”

The minister said there were also challenges with scholarships in the country.

“Mr Speaker, it is again in time the intention of this government that all Bahamians who qualify will go to the University of the Bahamas, free tuition in time. That is a commitment of this government.”

He also said: “(We also have) plenty scholarship problems at this time, Mr Speaker.

“One, there are too few applications from the public schools and the schools in the Family islands.

“Number two, sir, there is a pervasive undesirability of those who apply for scholarships to want to go to the University of the Bahamas.

“Three, there is a recurring sharp increase in the number of persons seeking scholarship for universities aboard.

“Number four, sir, a significant increase over the years in the number of Bahamians who are opting not to return home even though they are the beneficiaries of our scholarships, Bahamians taxes,” Mr Lloyd said.

Comments

TheMadHatter 4 months ago

Why would anyone return home, take the chance of being falsely accused, and then being raped in prison? Makes no sense - not to mention being unhealthy.

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sheeprunner12 4 months ago

Well .......... do not deceive the Public and take government scholarships with promises to re-pay or be bonded to service

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TalRussell 4 months ago

Comrades! Not even the Minister Responsible People's Security has threaten the thugs with.... “If you don’t (voluntarily surrender) and we got to come and get you, grief is your fate".
In conclusion the Rt. Hon. PM should tell the education minister to chill-out - before he starts popping he blood vessels.

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Regardless 4 months ago

......maybe instead of starting a collection agency he should tax the hell out of his gangster clients in the numbers racket that he and his partner in crime Sears love to represent and use that to pay down student loan arrears.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 months ago

What Loud Mouth Lloyd does not talk about is the fact that his very good friend Alfred Sears, while Sears was Minister of Education and Attorney General, was primarily responsible for the disastrous policies and shoddy administration procedures that gave rise to most of the outrageous abuses that have occurred within the Education Loan Authority. Alfred Sears has cost all of us hard working honest Bahamian taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars! Talk that truth Mr. Lloyd!!

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TalRussell 4 months ago

Comrades! If you can jump the Que threaten students - why not go after the some $3 Billion owed to government by members business community - for anything from BEC, Property Taxes, VAT, Customs, Work Permit Fees, Business Licenses, Fines, National Insurance, Crown Lands, Etcta, Etcta?

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Publius 4 months ago

“I leave that right there, Mr Speaker. Because we cannot afford to be out of pocket a hundred and fifty plus million dollars, can’t happen.

But they can eventually afford to give everyone free tuition and housing....

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sheeprunner12 4 months ago

The whole list of persons who have gotten Educational Loan Authority scholarships for the past 20 years are there for the public to see ......... All Jeff Lloyd has to do is to order the ELA to publish the defaulters' list in the NG & Tribune for the public to see - with instructions that the co-sponsors must make arrangements with the Treasury to begin making monthly payments within 6 months ..... I will bet that at least 75% of these loans are to private school students with well-off families and the culprits are now living overseas ........... after taking our money on condition to re-pay .... smdh

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Itellya 4 months ago

I agree that if there's monies owing that people should pay. However as the minister seeks to recoup these funds I ask that he bares in mind why there might be funds owing. Many many college graduates are unable to find a job because of the following reasons;

(a) A number of businesses turn down college graduates because they either don't want to pay or cannot afford to pay qualified people. Some persons have been told point blank, "I cant afford to pay you",

(b) In many government agencies old retired persons have been brought back to work or consult, clogging the system, preventing the promotion of those currently employed which would in turn create vacancies for new qualified persons to be employed who could have otherwise opted to stay abroad rather than returning home to "give back" only to be disappointed.

(c) in 2015 2000 persons lost their jobs in one day!! Many of these persons were not re-employed.

(d) What about those owing who reside in Grand Bahama where persons can barely keep the electricity on because of a lack of employment.?

So again while I understand 156 million is good chunk, your threat may have just added undue anxiety to the many who genuinely cannot repay! Don't forget to be human in your quest!!

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sheeprunner12 4 months ago

Stop condoning privileged Bahamians who are fleecing the government ...... while poor children who go to government schools cannot even qualify to get a HS diploma because of a dysfunctional public school system and homes ........ This present two-tiered educational system is unequal and unjust

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Porcupine 4 months ago

Another sad state of affairs. What happens next? Who will stay here? Once educated, and eyes opened, how does this corrupt, bankrupt, jobless place look?

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sheeprunner12 4 months ago

Do not despair .......... We need to drain the swamp (in this case, the square)

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sheeprunner12 4 months ago

A large percentage of these loans were "given away" by Carl Bethel when he was the Minister of Education .......... Funny, how things come full circle ........ Lloyd and Bethel must now clean up this mess that really started with the FNM and just mushroomed for 15 years.......... BOL

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Baha10 4 months ago

Publish the Names, 30 days to pay or commence Court Proceedings. This is critical, as if we have a "D" Average, these Culprits represent our more intelligent, who with all their higher intelligence are using it to avoid their obligations, which unless curbed will simply carry over into the work place and indeed, possible political life. Real problem is this is an ethical issue, which is hard to address in adulthood and is more of an upbringing issue, which means the Parents of these Kids were most likely crooked and have simply passed it on to their Children, hence dare I say why this Country has gone to hell in the past 43 years since Independence and the future is bleak.

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