“Some of our members have returned to St. Lucia to no jobs” – Alumni Association responds to prime minister’s speech

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“Some of our members have returned to St. Lucia to no jobs” – Alumni Association responds to prime minister’s speech

Below is a press statement from Grambling State University Alumni Association (St. Lucia)

We the members of the Grambling State University Alumni Association are both shocked and saddened by some of the statements made in the House of Assembly on Tuesday 2nd April, 2013 by the Honorable Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Dr. Kenny D. Anthony.

The Minister for Finance made the comments in relation to a letter written to him by the East Caribbean Financial Holding (ECFH) subsidiary, Bank of St. Lucia Ltd (BOSL) concerning the over 240 students who attended the northern Louisiana University.

The Prime Minister as outlined in the letter, addressed to his Ministry, that over 130 students are delinquent on their government guaranteed student loans from the BOSL. While this may be a fact, the Minister for Finance went on to state that he was of the opinion that students believed that because their loans were guaranteed by the Government of St Lucia (GOSL) that students may be under the impression that the loan was instead a grant which didn’t need paying back.

This statement by our dear Prime Minister was very disheartening. The Grambling State University Alumni Association would like to categorically deny that its members view the funds of taxpayers as grants, and we are fully aware based on our loan agreements that we are required to repay the loans guaranteed by the GOSL on our behalf. What we do know for sure is that members have found it very difficult given St Lucia’s bleak economic climate and high unemployment rate to find gainful employment.

Some of our members have returned to St. Lucia to no jobs, some to old jobs with no room for growth and a few are only working part time. In light of these facts, as an Association we wrote to Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony, only a few months after the November 2011 General Elections seeking an audience with him to discuss our plight, but to no avail. No response was ever given to our letter.

Constant calls were made to his office only to be given the run around as to why they were unable to grant our request for an audience with him. We as an association went as far as having a member speak to his Press Secretary and she also advised that we would not be able to see him and that we should try another member of the Cabinet.

We also approached the then Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Dr. Ubaldus Raymond, who expressed his concerns for our plight, offered his own moral support and expressed his misgivings about the program. But Dr. Raymond however, admitted that he was not in a position to assist us given his absence from the Cabinet.

After giving up on our attempts to see Dr. Anthony we then set our sights on the Minister for Education, Dr. Robert Lewis, who gracefully granted us an opportunity to meet with him to discuss our issues. In that meeting; we produced a number of proposals on the ways we thought we could reach an amicable arrangement on the way forward.

One of the proposals was for the GOSL and BOSL to sit down and review the rate of interest on our student loans in order to reduce our monthly repayments. We felt that this would assist members greatly as many of us were unable to adequately meet our financial obligations given the below par salaries many of us currently earned. The Minister responsible promised to get back to our Association after reporting to the Cabinet of Ministers.

To date although we have not received any feedback from the Minister for Education, we have since learnt that the BOSL was not in agreement with any of the proposals that we presented to the Minister. As an Association, we have only learnt of the establishment of a Cabinet Sub-Committee to review the concerns of the BOSL through the revelations made in the House of Assembly on Tuesday past.

The Grambling State University Alumni Association has not been invited to meet with the Cabinet Sub-Committee to discuss the subject of their mandate which directly involves us, which leaves us confused since we have been willing for the last year to work on an agreement that would be satisfactory to all parties involved.

Our Alumni Association now asks the question, how can a Committee chart ‘a way forward’ without any kind of consultation with the very young people whose lives will be most affected by the recommendations that they decide to make?

We the former students of Grambling State University who have returned to St. Lucia have a great interest in arriving at an amicable resolution to this problem of delinquency on loan repayments between our members and the Bank of St Lucia. However, as stated very passionately in our meeting with the Minister for Education, and as we had also originally planned to bring to the attention of the Prime Minister, had we been granted the honour of an audience with him, we as an Association would have presented the hard facts surrounding the issue of the non-payment of loans by our members.

St. Lucia’s current economic climate, high unemployment, low salaries offered to qualified young people in the private sector, and lack of room for promotion in the public sector has left our members handicapped where maintaining a decent standard of living is concerned. In this modern day of social media, other recent graduates of the University who hear of the constant struggles that their fellow school mates are going through back home would be no more inclined to return to St. Lucia. This is sad to note, but it is a cold hard fact. St. Lucia through its draconian student loan policies is its own enemy; we are shooting ourselves in the foot where the development of young people is concerned.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister, Cabinet of Ministers, Leader and members of the Opposition, the continued policies of this country where tertiary education is concerned, is indirectly contributing to the continued brain drain of this sweet Helen. Young people here in St. Lucia have ambition, hopes and dreams just like any other young person in any other part of the world.

We are not asking for a free pass on our responsibilities, but given the current economic conditions that exist at this time in St Lucia, we cannot continue to be unrealistic about our member’s ability to repay these loans in full. Realistically speaking; what does the Bank and Government of St. Lucia expect the graduates who have remained in the United States of America to come back home to?

‘The fundamental cure for poverty is not money, but education!’ It is interesting to note that our dear Prime Minister quoted the above by our very own Nobel Laureate, Sir William Arthur Lewis, at the 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (18CCEM) in Mauritius in August of last year.

If education is the fundamental cure for poverty; then why is it so expensive?

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72 COMMENTS

  1. To any student at university now, do not come back to ST.Lucia. Try to get a job wherever you are and transfer your loan fee from there to here. Unless you are coming back to a job or know someone who will guarantee you one.

    If anyone tell you are a traitor, pay them no mind. Tell them to kiss you know where.

    To aspiring students, please save every dim you can. From form four try to get a summer job and save $20 or $15, just save, save. After A'Level or other tertiary education, work and save. When you have that accumulated money over the years, you will borrow less or nothing from the bank.

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  2. I am a st. lucian student abroad but not affiliated with Grambling University Alumni. When I first went abroad to study my friends would ask me are you going back and I would say of course, st. lucia is my home. They would say not me, I am never going back there. I would be so shocked why would you say that about sweet helen of the west.
    Summer 2012 I went home and could not wait to come back to the new place i called home. My parents sat me down and told me point blank don't come back home as st. lucia has nothing to offer me.
    Truth is all of st. lucia can look at students like criminals or traitors but what do you have to offer me? Life is all about progressing and doing what is best for you. It is better to make $3000 US than make $3000 EC. With $3000 US you still can have saved over after you pay your loan. With $3000 EC you can't pay ANYTHING.
    Why with a Master's degree would I want to come back home to work under some1 with a Bachelor's degree who is making more than I am? I went to school to make a difference not to be stifled.
    Now, while I understand that some of you might want to stay over seas, it takes nothing from you to maintain your student loans and keep your monthly payments. I have heard too many horror stories of students who go overs and leave the loans for their parents to pay - shame on you.

    If the problem is that there is no jobs? What then is the problem when you are over seas or in a position to pay and you just don't pay?

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    • "Why with a Master’s degree would I want to come back home to work under some1 with a Bachelor’s degree who is making more than I am?".............. MAYBE CAUSE THEY HAVE MORE EXPERIENCE THAN YOU. A MASTERS WITHOUT EXPERIENCE DOES NOT MAKE YOU AN INSTANT BOSS.

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  3. Well I guess we small islanders are all suffering the same plight. In September 2007 my student loan balance stated $61,000. I used to pay 1,300/month until July 2012 i moved it to 2,0000. For 5 years I paid approximately $15000/year plus an additional 16,000 since i increased it. I am still owing them 40,000. I am not even going to bother attempt to figure it out. I am just waiting to send in payment one month and for it to be returned.

    Fortunately, I have a job that provides allows me to pay 1/3 of my salary towards my student loan. But it also means that I have not taken a vacation in the past 5 years, and the savings barely creeping.

    Hold tight, one day things must get better. Do whatever you have to and try to meet your commitments.

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  4. I cannot believe I'm reading this today, because I so wanted to go to University most of my classmates and some friends went to school some in the US, Canada and a handful in England. I couldn't come up with collateral none at all, I was sad. I saw all their Facebook updates, the countless parties and new outfits, I'm still happy for them, better we have educated people in society.
    I watched as they posted pics of their graduation, I 'liked' their pretty pictures, a milestone and still I didn't even make it to freshman year anywhere not to mention I got accepted at 3 Universities I applied for, but no luck with the collateral, I admit I cried.

    Since I wasn't eligible for $135,000 to get a high flying degree and a bunch of new Facebook friends, instead I got a little cash and went to look for work, took up a correspondence course which is a challenge because you don't have tuition from well qualified experienced professors and if you're not disciplined it's easy to give up, not so flash I know and certainly not cool, because I had no new Facebook friends from school, no party pictures, no university email, no sorority membership, no Michael Kors to show off, a little left out. Now reading this I look at my situation, I do not owe any banks anywhere and as a result my account is at positive :)I can sleep at night with my boring Facebook page. I'm eating well, I had steak last night and have peace of mind overall. It's really sad because some of these students I know were intelligent genuinely wanted to have careers in their interests and I hope they find a way out of this mess. But some wanted to 'follow' peers so much they signed their souls away to the bank...

    I'm so happy nobody wanted to put up a piece of land or a house for me so happy, I was angry with all of them thinking they didn't want to see me succeed, but it was a blessing in disguise, I ate my humble pie now all those that rubbed their degrees in my face and running away can kiss my a-- I have a degree now. And imagine that there is collateral available for me now if I wanted to get a Masters but no way, not because I can get a loan means I can afford it, I'm not going to starve for a Masters degree. Pay your loans now, you promised to pay when you signed the dotted line and if you cannot get work check if the land you put up as security has coconut trees, and go and sell some before bank take the people land. There has to be a way, get off your lazy precious butts and keep applying even though it's not what you studied, start something, sell something (legal) put what you can on the loan until you can afford to pay what you can or atleast pay the damn $63.00 interest everyday because when that adds up it's deadly. Gotta keep trying, it is YOUR life and YOUR future.

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    • I'm startled to think an educated person is able to think this way. I don't understand your resentment for college students and highly doubt anyone was attempting to flaunt anything while you looked on. You should never celebrate the downfall of other, life has a way of getting back at you. This sort of fight down mentality is what's driving our country off a cliff at the moment. I wish you success though, along with everyone else working hard to make it.

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      • This person is clearly not educated.This person is and has been very bitter to see others progress. A typical hater who smiles with you when deep down they envy your life and success. Anyone can afford ignorance and freedom got plenty!

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        • Actually 'no jobs' I have a degree, and have a job and gaining more experience in my field. Whilst you sit there writing that I am bitter to see others progress there is no need because I AM progressing like anyone who studied hard and succeeded just that I do not have the debt load so why should I be bitter? Really there's no need and I don't hate anyone so I am not. I just hope aspiring students who cannot afford now will explore alternative options like I did.

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          • Where is your degree from? Clearly you are relishing in the plight of others by your writing. Some people take pleasure in seeing others fail. I hope you're not one of them.

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          • freedom you need help. you sound like one of those persons who got their degrees in 6 months. your comment clearly shows that you are a jealous and vindictive individual. with your attitude i hope you wont be one of those kicked out of the public service for poor work performance

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      • If you read carefully there is no resentment, it is something I really wanted, not just the degree but attending university and wasn't fortunate to have but I may have ended up in the same situation unable to pay but I didn't. If I did I would however try my absolute best to repay the bank. There are many students who genuinely wanted to further their studies with real intentions of having a career afterwards I respect those students whereas I know others who pressured their families because they wanted to follow others. There were also some who boasted, yes it is great to have accomplished this but rubbing it in someones face isn't necessary and people like that I say can kiss my a--. What do you want me to say- that they should only enjoy the paper from the college and sit back and wait for the government to present a dream job on a silver platter and wipe out their debts? If telling them to take responsibility and try harder is fight down well it's best they just complain, don't try harder or continue to try ever and bring their own selves down instead. "Life has a way of getting back at you." I guess someday I will be slapped with a huge student loan and don't know where that debt came from... not. Sorry life was hard then for me, no collateral no help, you know how awful that feels being at an impressionable age with hopes of a successful future and it seemed there was no way? I found a way, a cheaper option and I worked in the meantime. I rolled with the punches and I am glad because it has shaped me. One more thing, what downfall? No-one has fallen, they have achieved greatly those who tried, went to school attained knowledge and qualifications to back this up, that's a milestone. I don't regard not being able to pay back student loan as a downfall it's just a situation that can be lessened with hard work at finding a way to repay. Once the loan is repaid or being paid back the student still has that degree and more options in life than someone without one.

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    • Young lady/young man. Wow I am shocked with all what you are saying. Grateful for all the wrong reasons. Number 1 it appears to me that you only wanted to go to school to show off - Micheal Kors bag, new facebook friends, parties? Sweetheart this is so far from college life. If that was your main reason for going there, then be thankful because you would not have survived one bit.
      Clearly you are still bitter and jealous. Comfort to you - cognitive dissonance (google it)comes lies in that fact that you don't have a loan to pay, but you are still hurting inside. If that was the life of your friends at school then they are not ready.
      An ambitious person aka if you really wanted a degree Monroe College is right there. Student loan/no loan while you pay from your pocket, it would not matter where you got it from as long as you got it. Fact is with their Master's degree and loan they can get to where they want? 20 years from now with your corresspondence degree you would still be there fuming inside and minding people business on Facebook.
      I do not know why we young St. Lucians believe everything that we see on Facebook. Step out of you small 2x4 house and see the world. The friends, fast life, parties, outfits etc that we set out because we see friends have it on facebook it is only for show nothing more nothing less.
      God allows things to happen to us for reasons and I am sure you don;t have collateral because HE forsee you would have made a damn mess and you were not ready for this "life" you came to want.
      Be more thankful for the little you have but not at the expense of others. Build your self confidence, your self esteem and everything else and stop hating. Maybe when you grow on that life lesson you will move on up.........

      You started from the bottom..and you still there.....check yourself

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    • I want to acknowledge you for making it this far. You expressed lots of determination and dedication in making someone for yourself. Nonetheless, It looks to me that you have some unsettled personal emotional problems. instead of externalizing your problem, internalized it and be content with what you have and how far you made it. You took a different route to be who you are, and my route is different. If you are upset, or thinks I don't sleep because of $63.00 interest a day, then you have missed the point.

      similar to you, I am determined, and deticated, just because I was given the honor to attend school does not make me a bad person. If there was one miracle and you were given to chance to attend school with the $135,000 loan, I grantee you that you will be in the same situation as me. That does not make your life sucks, it just make you work harder. To me, I have accomplished all what I wanted in a short period. I can walk proudly with my head up high, be happy with what I have, and still show care about my loan by contacting the bank. I bet you do not make $63.00 a day, to pay off that loan, or if you do, $80.00 a day minus $63.00 lives you with almost nothing.

      So don't be sadden by someone's success, even if you say you are not, but initially you were. I still think you are still sadden, you might not want to admit it, but your conversation states hidden messages that you are still extremely upset, but you are trying to refocus your pain.

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  5. This is ridiculous if true, $63.00 per day on interest if you do not pay on time? The bank and government should really rethink this and negotiate a better offer to the students because from what I am reading this is crazy. With even 15 years to repay this loan, from my understanding it seems like students will be busy paying off interest instead of the loan. It's clear now why students are struggling with the bank and government to come to a reasonable conclusion because some how some way 1 of the 3 is being ripped off. Not a student but after reading this, seems to me these students are being robbed. Mr. Prime Minister fix this and help the future leaders of our country because from what is happening here even after you and your political party retire they will still be paying these loans (ridiculous loans in my opinion).

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  6. It is a saddening situation on all corners of this problem, and some compromising need to be done. I personally contacted the bank to find out what I need to do, because I would be attending grad school, paying out of my own pocket (had to work while at grad school). The discouraging responses I got from the bank was (while am at grad school I'll need to pay off the interest or I will be charges $63.oo a day as interest. not a month, but a day. calculate this ($63*365)*2 yrs.... you do the calculation. This was ridiculous. I could not come up with that money, nor was I able to pay my school on time. Unlike some people who has family support, my family can't help me financially, so I was out there on my own. I went without food, just for me to get an education. I did side jobs just for me to make an income, to pay rent as well, because God knows, the loan did not cover room and board, because of the annual cost of school increase. I would be more than happy to pay off my loan, but I just can't right now. If the Bank and the government can work out something I sure many people including myself can pay it off. Right now I honestly would be able to pay $500.00 because I have to support my family, but no the banks don't want that, they want the full $1500.00 a month. and that I cannot pay. I appreciate the contribution to my education, but this is hard times, I family needs food, I need food, so now I have to choose between, paying for gas to go to work, buying food and paying a loan. Which one do you think?