Commercial banks in Barbados have come to the rescue of the hundreds of students who are likely to have problems with the payment of full tuition fees at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies and may have to abandon their studies there.
Students will have to pay tuition fees of between $5,625 and $16,618 annually, depending on the field of study, beginning September, following Government’s decision to only pay economic costs for Barbadians.
But the banks have intervened with the introduction of special funding packages and loan arrangements that include financial planning from nursery to tertiary. And at least one bank is already reporting a “flood” of responses from families of unemployed students as well as part-time students who are working.
“The response has been fantastic. We have been receiving calls almost every day through our call centre; people have been visiting the branches,” CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank Manager of Sales and Business Development for Retail Banking, Gregory Blackman told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
“We have been pairing these students and parents and guardians with lenders and we have been giving people the guidance that they need in order to make that next step and put the arrangements in place to ensure the financing is not an obstacle when the new semester starts in August of this year,” he added.
He disclosed that his bank was offering a customised loan where the borrower has the option of paying only the interest during the period of study and then after graduation, is given an additional three months to start repaying both principal and interest combined.
“Our product is flexible in that it gives the client also the option to determine if they want to pay both…from day one; but it’s structured in this way, so it’s more affordable during the study period, that they can just chose to pay interest and it gives the client up to 10 years. So it’s an extended repayment period which tend to keep the payments low and affordable,” the CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank manager added.
Blackman added his institution also gives advice to these clients on the kinds of loans that best suit their pockets.
His bank was one of the commercial financial entities which had been called in by the Cave Hill Campus management to make presentations to students.
Republic Bank was also one of those entities and its General Manager for Retail Banking Wavey Nicholls said it has a special window for tertiary education.
She said the bank has a loan repayment arrangement that makes it affordable for students to borrow.
“As far as the payment package referred to, there are loans…small loans that would fit into our regular loan package. So if anyone wanted loans in the region of $6,000 to $10,000…right now we have a package out there where they could borrow within that package and use it for education purposes,” Nicholls pointed out.
The bank executive revealed, too, that the bank had a loan facility where students or their families who borrow would have a moratorium on repayment.
“We have a moratorium period similar to the student revolving loan . . . but much more attractive where we will waive principal payment until the end of studies,” noted Nicholls.
Republic Bank’s senior manager for retail banking Sharon Zephirin added that they had a student suite that goes beyond loans into financial advice for saving and financial discipline.
She gave the assurance that her institution handled these clients on a case-by-case basis to ensure they were provided with the most affordable solutions to their funding challenges.
RBC Royal Bank is also providing a tertiary education loan facility, specially designed for students as well as a professional package catering to students pursuing professional designation.
Like other banks, RBC is partnering with the UWI to deal with the financing for the students. First Citizens Bank is also offering an educational loan with low interest rates, deferred payment options and a repayment grace period following graduation.