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Jamaica to offer pay-as-you-go student loans

CHANGING TIMES: In the early days, scores of aspiring university students would line up for several hours at the offices of the Student's Loan Bureau, hoping to get funding to further their education

STUDENTS IN Jamaica can now look forward to little debt by graduation thanks to the innovative Pay As You Study (PAYS) loan from the Students' Loan Bureau of Jamaica (SLB).

Under PAYS, students can borrow up to $680,000 per school year at 10 per cent interest on the reducing balance, and immediately begin monthly repayment via salary deductions. The maximum repayment period is 84 months.

PAYS, a rebranded and restructured of the Parent Plus loan facility, now being offered to a select number of students, is specifically geared at employed students or anyone (parent, guardian, or spouse), who is employed and willing to stand as the principal borrower.

The loan may be used to not only finance the cost of tertiary education, but also to supplement other funding opportunities such as scholarships, grants, bursaries and even other loans. Additionally, only one guarantor is required for the PAYS loan.

The loan can also be consolidated, in that each academic year for the duration of the course of study, the principal borrower can apply for that year's tuition, which will be combined with the previous loan.

The principal borrower can access a maximum of five PAYS loans during the student's programme of study.

"The PAYS loan offers the lowest interest rate for a tuition loan, smaller more affordable monthly payments, a longer repayment period, and shorter processing time," a spokesperson from SLB told The Gleaner.

Over the years, the SLB has had serious issues with some borrowers as many found it difficult to meet the monthly repayments.

Although there is a six-month grace period before the first payment is due, the combined loan over the years of study can lead to a high monthly payment, especially for a young employee.

Under PAYS, the student borrower should have a manageable loan payment by the end of the course of study as he would have already been paying back the loan while pursuing their tertiary education.

"I was very grateful for the SLB loan but anyone who gets a loan from them must try not to miss the monthly payments. My loan went delinquent and now I have to work Monday to Friday and on weekends to make two ends meet. But I am making sure that I pay off my loan as I think it is a good offering," one past borrower shared.

Another added: "If they had this pay-as-you-study when I went to get a loan, I really would have asked my parents to apply for that. I left UWI (University of the West Indies) two years ago and I don't know when I am going to finish paying my student loan."

"Out of all the possibilities of getting a loan from different organisations, the Students' Loan Bureau is the best option, so I would definitely ask about that loan," said a sixth-form student who will be starting university in September.

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