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According to the economically disadvantaged student loan form, a student becomes eligible for a student loan guaranteed by the government if he or she exhibits most of the following conditions:
- Be of good academic standing
- A member of a household with annual income below $10,000
- Lack of assets and can demonstrate that they do not qualify for credit
- Lack of productive, remunerative work and heavy concentration in low productivity, informal type occupation
- A member of a female-headed household
- A member of a single parent household
- Household where principal income earner has become displaced
- Member of a vulnerable group
- Households with few earners and a high dependency ratio
- A member of a large household.
As it stands, a student who has been approved for a disadvantage loan has to pay interest of 8.5 percent annually or an effective annual rate of 8.8391 percent, to be precise, on the amount draw down while studying. Clearly, judging from the criteria above, the effective interest rate and the fact that students are forced to pay interest while studying show that there is no vision for the dirt poor.
Most individuals in the civil service will advise a potential student to work three years and apply for study leave before going off to study. This is the best case available to the dirt poor, since as soon as they complete their studies they can return to work and monies received while studying can contribute to payment of the interest. However, what about those who did not get a permanent post to work three years to qualify for a study leave or the ambitious college graduate who fell short of a scholarship but will not give up on their dreams? Where is the vision for them?
Those individuals who went off to study with a disadvantage loan without a study leave face the stark reality of unemployment on return. And judging from the criteria above, their parents are often in no position to assist them. Remembering songs such as “little black boy go to school and learn” inflict anguish which leads to depression which is further compounded by a phone call from the student loan company requesting the payment of interest. Where is the vision to counter such predicament? But further depressing is the rumours of colleagues who fail to complete their degree in the allotted time being offered jobs for which they are not qualified.
My goal is not to vent, but to call upon the student loan company and the government to revise their criteria and adhere to them. Students who are able to take loan privately pay 7 per cent per annum. The 1.5 per cent may seem miniscule, but in reality it makes a big difference. The disadvantage student loan company is creating a nation in debt in an environment where unemployment is on the rise and the outlook is dismal. To this end, I propose the following:
- Payment of principal and interest when studies are completed, no interest charged while studying.
- A tax holiday of one year after receiving a job for those who did not receive study leave.
I have confidence that the government is listening to our young populace, and they will promptly consider our proposals.
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