The coronavirus pandemic has dampened demand for student loans, an official of the Government’s education finance agency has revealed.
At the same time, those with outstanding loans have “definitely” been making use of a range of payment relief options being offered by the Student Revolving Loan Fund (SRLF), its administrative manager, Ambrose Johnson has told Barbados TODAY.
Johnson could not say how many individuals had applied for student loans but said: “In light of the current pandemic, the applications are not as robust as before.”
He added: “In terms of new applicants, with more and more persons now studying online, we are targeting those persons primarily who are studying online to assist them with any expenses they may incur in pursuit of their educational dreams.”
But with a range of new initiatives, Johnson said he was “confident” that they would again see people coming forward to access education loans.
In addition to a “digital transformation room” consisting of a full online application process and other online mechanisms, the SRLF has introduced a top-up loan facility.
“This is where existing borrowers from the fund who may want to use this opportunity to retool themselves, can come back to the fund and get an additional loan without having to liquidate the existing one as was the policy before,” said Johnson.
He was unable to say what the delinquency rate was now or how many loans were outstanding, but Johnson told Barbados TODAY that due to the COVID-19 pandemic the SRLF had put several relief initiatives in place to help individuals who were experiencing difficulties repaying loans.
Those “COVID-19 repayment relief” options include reduced monthly payments, suspension of interest for up to three months, deferral of payment up to six months and a waiver of late fees.
He explained that individuals had to make an application and they must be directly affected by the pandemic.
“From the time COVID-19 hit we launched a whole suite of relief options,” Johnson said. “While I can’t give you the exact figure now several persons have been making use of the options either to defer the payment, reduced payment or waived interest.
“We have extended initially depending on the particular situation for three months, with the possibility of extending for another three months. We also waived all late payment fees.”
The first suspension of interest ended in June and some people have already received another three months extension depending on their individual circumstance.
“Persons who may not have applied then because of the situation are now applying for relief because their circumstances changed,” he revealed.
The SRLF is expected to release its annual report in a matter of weeks. ([email protected])