Across the world students who enter tertiary level education are granted Student Loans to assist in the completion of their studies and Jamaica is no different. Here the lines are long annually as the application deadlines approach for the grants. The survival of this process and its operations are critical as young students leaving secondary/high schools depend on this service to finance higher education.
What is becoming a new trend or what some would term as a negative behaviour is the deliberate action of some students who received the grants to ignore the repayment of such. Of course the Student Loan Bureau promotes the repayment of the fees to support the longevity of the program. However, with hard economic times, and the deliberate attempt at absconding the process some graduates avoid the repayment.
Students from the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica top the list for being delinquent in repaying their grants. But, what is to blame for this? Most graduates are not finding the right jobs in the job market. Most times, they have to settle for jobs outside their industry and this causes a major problem. The ramifications for this have major consequences because students rely on finding the ultimate job to financially sustain them and make them able to repay all the debts they have. This is not only unique to the Jamaican context but it exists worldwide. It is time we have a discussion where technocrats and policy makers evaluate if they are the cause for this. Certainly governments play a huge role. Because they ought to be creating the right environment where graduates can survive financially and make them able to repay these loans. It makes no sense we grant students millions of dollars and at the end have an increasing interest rate, low salaries, no job creation and have the Student Loan Bureau in a sham not being able to support itself.
Graduates however, take advantage of the situation and become irresponsible in not repaying their loans which is a travesty. In a perfect world education is a right which is should be. But in a case where loans are provided, it is not to be thought of as a right but as a privilege. It can’t be that graduates find time to take loans on cars, mortgage on houses, etc and ignore their responsibility to pay their student loan. Graduates must take responsibility because future generations are depending on them repaying their loans to achieve higher education.
In light of this, the Student Loan Bureau must now be innovative and creative in ensuring that graduates pay their end of the bargain. If it means that as an agency they will have to publish names, investigate where graduates are working and living and also creating a relationship where graduates find the agency to report their financial positions, this must be done. It is much better for a graduate to pay what they can in their situation than never to pay at all.
Governments should also take responsibility to create environments where businesses can survive and it cannot be said that graduates are all to become entrepreneurs to sustain themselves. Yes, some must become innovative and create their own employment but that is simply not enough. University graduates should graduate in their respective industries and be able to contribute to the productive sectors which they were trained in.
Student loans are granted under a contract with the agency holding the student responsible to repay that loan. Graduates even in harsh economic times must find ways to repay their loans because the repayment of this loan determines the future of another. It cannot be accepted that persons find time to handle mortgages and car loans and leave student loans unattended to. Your decision not to repay a loan of this nature should not hold other students behind. So, to those who are giving others an opportunity by repaying their loans, thank you and to those who hold another persons future at ransom, shame on you.