By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Education Loan Authority (ELA) is expected to resume loan services to students in the “not too distant future,” ELA Chairman Michael Foulkes disclosed yesterday, adding the entity has also commenced legal action in the Supreme Court against delinquent borrowers and guarantors to recover the more than $150m it is owed.
Mr Foulkes made the statement in the House of Assembly during continued contributions from MPs thanking Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling for delivering the Speech from the Throne in May.
According to the Golden Gates MP, requests to have loan holders come in and amicably agree to settlements and payment options have only resulted in 25 per cent of persons with delinquent accounts either paying their loans in full or becoming current on their loans.
Mr Foulkes said this leaves a “whopping and unacceptable” 75 per cent of loan holders who have not paid or made attempts to pay.
He said the trend continues despite an incentive programme put in place by the ELA to help students who recognise the need to pay off their loans.
That programme will be discontinued in February 2018.
To that end, Mr Foulkes said the board of the ELA recently met and is “thoroughly and fully committed” to availing itself of every legal avenue at its disposal to ensure, as best it can, that all the loans are repaid.”
In June, Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd warned those owing the ELA to either pay up or face “grief.” He said the outstanding payments placed a roadblock before the government in approving new scholarship applications.
Mr Foulkes yesterday informed Parliament the ELA board will continue to whenever and wherever possible, bring legal action in the Supreme Court against borrowers and guarantors.
“No loans have been extended over the past eight years because in excess of $157 million is outstanding to date. That is $157 million,” Mr Foulkes said during his contribution. “Thousands of students returned home after completing their degrees. Most of them have jobs, some good jobs and some, well-paying jobs, but have not paid their loans or worse, not even made an effort to do so.
“Mr Speaker, in fact, there are in excess of 4,400 delinquent loans and of this group, the vast majority of the students, are right here at home, working, but are not paying these loans.”
He continued: “It may be hard to believe, but we have brothers and sisters among us, who obtained loans as much as $99,000 and never made one single, solitary payment over many years. They signed for the money, their guarantors or co-applicants also signed. They received the money and they never looked back.”
Mr Foulkes, reflecting on the turmoil his office faces as it continues to turn new applicants away due to a lack of financial resources, stated: “Mr Speaker, they should have looked back because, if they did, they might have been moved by the many persons who, just last month, were trying to find funds to attend college at home or abroad, but were unable to.”
He added: “Just perhaps, if they saw the many students, who received acceptance letters to many colleges and universities but could not avail themselves of those opportunities, perhaps then, they might have paid off their loan by now, or at least, made payments on a regular basis.”
Mr Foulkes urged all persons not paying their loans, and their guarantors or co-applicants, to contact the authority at 323-6322 or visit the ELA’s office at 97 Collins Avenue, so that an arrangement can be made.