The student loans were accessed through the Saint Lucia Development Bank and the Bank of Saint Lucia for studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Midwestern State University, and the Johnson and Whales University.
Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Dr. Kenny D Anthony, told Parliament that student-loans-financing in Saint Lucia is in crisis and the Cabinet has appointed a special committee to review the current system for ‘Government Student Loan Guarantees’ to ensure future sustainability.
“The matter of financing education for students is a matter that every one of us has an interest in, all of us have a sympathy, sensitivity, an understanding because we appreciate the value of education, but the reality is can the state continue to bare a cost that is rising at a phenomenal rate because our students turn their backs? How far therefore can we go? Can we find a point at which all of us can agree where these loans are concerned? Do we continue with the current policies? These are the questions, and we need to begin to think about that when the report of the special committee is presented to this honourable House,” the prime minister said.
Minister for Education, Human Resource Development and Labour, Dr. Robert Lewis, assured the Parliament there is a system in place for the selection of students and approval for government loan guarantees. He said the system is in keeping with government’s policy on transparency.
“First of all, for someone to get even a scholarship or loan guarantee, the student’s course of study must meet the government’s priority list area for education. The student has to be accepted by the university of study, the student has to be vetted by the various government department, which is the Ministry of Education. Besides all this, the student must meet the bank’s own requirement, so even if the Ministry of Education would have approved the student, the bank itself has its own criteria to ensure the student meets the requirement,” Dr. Lewis explained.
During the debate on the resolution for guarantees, Deputy Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre zeroed in on the issue of delinquency and on non-repayment of loans by some students. He urged students to be responsible and fulfill their obligations as part of the agreement.
“This is a guarantee. It is a contingent liability to the debt of Saint Lucia, so if every student pays back their loans, taxpayers will have no money to pay. So we must preach responsibility and encourage our students to understand that even though they have succeeded, other people would also like to benefit from the facility, and we need to repay the money so we can guarantee loans for them. So I want to support the minister for finance and also applaud him for bringing this resolution to the public so we can have a discussion and talk about it,” Pierre said.
The Student Loans Guarantee further emphasises the government of Saint Lucia’s commitment to the education of the nation.