Govt likely to waive interest on outstanding UG student loans

Government has announced that it has devised a number of strategies to recoup the billions of dollars owed to the University of Guyana’s Student Loan Scheme.

This is according to Government’s spokesman, Raphael Trotman, who told media operatives on Wednesday that Cabinet received a report which contained several “nice” recommendations for the University of Guyana’s Student Loan Agency (SLA) to recoup the outstanding fees.

A recent forensic audit into UG’s Student Loan Agency revealed that from the year 1994 to May 2015, some 17,567 or 69.4 per cent of 25,335 student loans were deemed delinquent after students were not honouring their indebtedness.

This means some $10 billion in student loans is outstanding to the institution. Among the delinquent students are several prominent Attorneys, Magistrates and politicians, including the former Leader of the Opposition and the People’s National Congress Reform Robert Corbin.

Trotman opted not to go into much detail about the recommendations, noting that Finance Minister Winston Jordan, who headed the sub-committee that compiled the report and made the recommendations, is expected to host a press briefing on the matter soon.

Nevertheless, the Minister disclosed that among the proposals presented to Cabinet on Tuesday is the waiver of the interest rates attached to the loans.

“We are hoping that we can be generous in the Jubilee year, indeed, to students and waive interests and so forth. So there are considerations for passing or excusing or not insisting on payments of some things,” he stated.

Trotman explained that the interest waiver would be made across the board. He went on to dismiss assertions that the wavier was done in favour of several high profile individuals who still owe the agency. He pointed out that before these persons became ‘high profile’, there were just mere students of the tertiary institution.

“We are not looking at the profile they hold now, we are looking at the fact that they were students of the institution known as the University of Guyana and should be treated fairly and equally… The point is not to waive interests of any individual but to look across the board at how we can, in our Jubilee year, make an offer to past students that is good in their interests,” he stated.

Back in February, the Finance Minister had announced that Government will stop funding to the Student Loan Agency because there is sufficient cash for another two years. “The student loan agency has accumulated enough money for the fund to now revolve so the fund is revolving and there is no need for Government contribution at this time,” Jordan had told the National Assembly.

At the time, the Finance Minister had stated that Cabinet was working on a ‘paper’ to recover the more than $10 billion in unpaid loans.

The sub-committee headed by Minister Jordan was set up to examined the forensic audit report on the Student Loan Agency. According to Trotman, in the report, the sub-committee recommended a review of the organisational structure and business processes of the agency to make it compliant with auditing and accounting frameworks.

Additionally, he noted that the sub-committee also made a number of recommendations of short and medium-term measures to streamline the agency and to set clear conditions for loan applications, guarantees and repayments.