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SLB to name and shame hard-core delinquents

Jamaica Gleaner / The Students Loans Bureau (SLB) will publish the names and faces of approximately 100 borrowers labelled chronically delinquent.

Those persons have until February 26 to avoid the list, due to be published on March 4, by reaching out to the financing agency about clearing their debt.

Since mid-January, the SLB has been running teaser advertisements in the print media warning of possible publication while urging delinquent borrowers to settle their accounts now.

Executive Director Monica Brown told the Financial Gleaner that the March 4 publication is targeted at a hard-core group of delinquents.

“These are persons with whom no arrangements have been made to clear their arrears or close their loans. These individuals are those deemed uncooperative after all efforts to collect on their delinquent accounts have not yielded the desired result,” Brown charged.

The SLB operates a revolving loan scheme in addition to a programme of grants and scholarships. Its sources of funding include central government subventions and bilateral and multilateral agency funding.

The student financing agency provides three types of loans: Targeted, Parent Plus, and Post-Graduate facilities, with the most popular being the Targeted loan, for which there is a moratorium period that covers the years in school. Repayment is scheduled to commence after graduation and a grace period is allowed.

The last list was published in 2015. But the data on how many of those whose identities go public end up clearing or arranging to clear their obligations was not available.

The loan bureau currently distributes about $3.5 billion in annual financing and relies on the repayment of past debt to help feed the pool of revolving funds for the next round of borrowers.

The operations at the SLB have been dogged by perennial delinquency, peaking at 52 per cent in November 2012.

Brown said that the delinquency rate has improved over time but was reluctant to disclose current performance. She noted, however, that it was “still too high” and, “therefore, efforts are continuing towards further improvement”.

The latest available numbers from the agency’s last published annual report put delinquency at 23.76 per cent of the total loan portfolio of $17.78 billion as at March 2015.

The executive director reiterated that timely repayment by borrowers was the lifeblood of the loan scheme, and those failing to pay back funds negatively affect the bureau’s mission to fund needy students seeking higher education.

“The SLB relies heavily on collections to fund new loans under the Revolving Loan Fund, therefore, repayment by borrowers is critical to the sustainability of the fund,” Brown said.

The SLB says that it uses several measures in an effort to reduce delinquency and improve collections, including publication of chronically delinquent borrowers. The agency says that publication is a last resort and is only used after all channels have been exhausted.

However, the SLB also noted that there is usually an increase in collections in periods approaching the publication of the list of delinquents by those who wish to avoid the embarrassment.

The SLB warns that to avoid the pending list, persons have until 3:30 p.m. on February 26 to make payment arrangements for their outstanding debt.

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