Liars test SLB
Despite extending great effort to arrive at the best repayment plans to meet the needs of customers, Monica Brown, executive director at the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB), said the organisation is being severely challenged by borrowers who lie, give fake addresses, and believe that they are entitled.
Addressing a number of concerns that continue to emerge following news of the agency's plan to name and shame chronic delinquent borrowers on March 4, Brown told The Gleaner that it was crucial that students see the need to do their part.
"If they are unemployed and they come in and advise us, we put that on the system, so the names of those persons usually are not published. However, a number of them will tell you that they are unemployed, and if you check TAJ (Tax Administration of Jamaica) database, they are, in fact, employed, so that is a big challenge," she explained.
"They hide also, so even when you send the correspondence to the address that you have on the system, there is no response, so the mail invariably doesn't reach them," she continued.
The executive director also highlighted another huge challenge.
"We have a culture of entitlement, which we have had to deal with over the years. There are some segments of our borrowing population who think that it is Government's money, and they are entitled to it, and there is no need to pay it back. It means, therefore, that we have to employ debt collectors, attorneys, and so on, to get those persons to try to recover."
She noted, though, that the SLB sees tangible results whenever it opts to publish the names of delinquents.
"When we look at the collection, round about the period when we publish or even from those teaser ads start, a number of persons do respond. If you come to the office, you will see huge crowds. Even today (Friday) was crazy. So we see persons responding."
Brown urged borrowers to be responsible, underscoring the point that the bureau tries to be understanding once it sees evidence that students are having challenges.
"Some customers think we are harsh. I think SLB is very lenient. I was speaking to one of the officers, and he was saying that a gentleman who came in today (Friday), his loan went into repayment from 2007, and he has not paid one dollar," she said.
"We are trying to get the salary deduction in place, so once we get that done, we expect to see more consistency."