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Student debtors still won’t pay up

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

THE Education Loan Authority is considering an “extensive analysis” of all remaining delinquent student loans to determine “how much is still owed”, according to chairwoman Miriam Emmanuel.

Addressing the current status of the authority’s recovery efforts yesterday, the MICAL MP insisted that while scores of borrowers have voluntarily “stepped up and done right by the ELA”, there remains a considerable percentage of loan-holders who continue to avoid their payment agreements.

Mrs Emmanuel said the authority has, over the last year, pushed its current recovery scheme to its limits; noting the “write and call” action plan has yielded “its fair share”.

“Basically, we are still doing all we can to get what we can from those that have responded and showed their willingness to pay something back,” she told The Tribune.

“As it stands, I can’t put a figure to it at this time, but we have pushed significantly into the amount of persons owing and not communicating with us.”

According to Mrs Emmanuel, the student loan repayment incentive programme, which was established in February 2016, effectively attracted borrowers “willing to do the right thing”.

In June, Mrs Emmanuel said 498 borrowers paid off their loans through the plan.

However, yesterday she said the ELA now needs to determine a way to “chase down all the others”.

“We have to do extensive analysis, perhaps we are looking to have that done by the end of the month into the start of August to find out how much is still owed by that other group.

“There is the legal avenue that you’ve heard about. That is certainly a great option; but we want to do what we have to do in a legally right way,” she added.

“What I am saying is, we want a legal approach that encourages everyone and works for both sides. We don’t want to put anyone in a place where their life is limited.

“We’ve contacted some persons who came in and gave us an understanding of where they are at. So we know that there are some borrowers out there that have the thought that if the government comes knocking, we are going to want all they have. That’s not the case, you know. We are sending out phone calls, we are sending out letters to the effect that we want them to come in and speak with us.

“We are very optimistic that once they hear that message, more will be open to voluntarily coming in and working with us. The focus is getting the ELA back in a position where it can do what it was designed to do, afford young Bahamians a chance at tertiary level education.

“We believe that if you get it back up and running the right way, we can get more Bahamians opportunities. That can only happen if we get back some of what was put in.”

To date, some 3,938 loans worth $42.56 million have been awarded to borrowers in New Providence. Another 669 loans worth $7.41m have been awarded in Grand Bahama, she said, while 126 loans worth $1.39m have been awarded in the Family Islands.

As of April, the authority’s portion of the loan scheme’s portfolio stood at approximately $84,860,978, which represents 2,182 loans with default, a rate of 90 percent, and a delinquency rate of 275 days that is equivalent to $79,120,750, according to data provided by the ELA.

Also, as of the same date more than $48,762,496 or 992 loans which represents the accumulation of interest and principal originally were paid off by the government of the Bahamas to approved lenders in accordance with article 21(3) of the repealed Education Guarantee Fund Act 2001.

The student loan programme was established in 2000 to assist students pursuing tertiary education, either locally or abroad.

However, it was suspended in August 2009 due to its high delinquency rate.

Last year, Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd said his ministry had commenced the dissemination of written requests to the more than 4,600 former loan recipients, requesting some form of repayment.

Similar letters were issued during the former Christie administration.

In early 2016, then Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald said the ELA was owed $155m in outstanding loan payments for its student loan scheme.

At the time, the Progressive Liberal Party cabinet minister urged delinquent borrowers to arrange repayment methods or face court action.

Mr Fitzgerald said at the time that the ministry, along with ELA officials, had established a student loan repayment incentive programme to help secure the outstanding funds.

The programme involved the establishment of a 12-month period of “incentives and waivers” from March 1, 2016 to assist and encourage delinquent borrowers to repay their loans. That was to be an interest-free period, during which no interest would be applied to loans, Mr Fitzgerald said.

Comments

proudloudandfnm 5 years, 12 months ago

Not won't....

CAN'T.

FIX OUR ECONOMY!

Dawes 5 years, 12 months ago

We are run by idiots. How can you not know how much is owed. This should be available at the click of a button. If you want to get people to pay then say on September 1st those who have not come in will have their name and amounts owed put in the newspaper for all to see. A number will come in as they would not want that. Then on September 1st do it, as in print instead of the normal Government plan of lets make a threat and not go through with it. Of course i am sure this won't happen as at a guess the list of those owing has a large number of people who surprisingly have the same names as past and present MP's

sealice 5 years, 12 months ago

The PLP said we don't have to pay and when dey get back in dey ga fix dis.....

Kalikgold 5 years, 12 months ago

I hope you get a flat tire on your way back from work. Youu people sicken me

joeblow 5 years, 12 months ago

Guess you missed the sarcasm!

DDK 5 years, 12 months ago

“As it stands, I can’t put a figure to it at this time" Why the H E L L not? Is Chairwoman Miriam Emmanuel actually being paid a salary by The People? I have never heard so much garbage as this person was spouting.

Sickened 5 years, 12 months ago

Jokey! This program was a hand-out not a hand-up. I bet most of the people who owe money got a nice car in the driveway - or had a nice car which has since been mashed up!

One 5 years, 12 months ago

Without this program I wouldn't have been able to afford to get my University degree. Once I obtained my degree I prioritized paying off this loan and did so within 2 years. It was possible through strict budgeting; too often persons aren't willing to live a financially humble lifestyle to pay off the loan. Now my younger sister is trying to get a degree but without this loan the family is finding it very difficult to support her ambition. These persons need to be strictly punished and forced to pay. They are effectively stealing and preventing the youth from having this opportunity.

Kalikgold 5 years, 12 months ago

ELA we are tired of all "these talks". How / When yall gonna fix this?

mandela 5 years, 12 months ago

just add a portion of their loan to their electricity bill and it will eventually be paid off

sheeprunner12 5 years, 12 months ago

Have they tried publishing the delinquents' names in the Tribune, Guardian and Punch every month?????? .............. along with their co-signees and the amounts owed?????

Most of them would be children of PEPs .......... Maybe that is why that list will not go public.

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