A funding institution, established 45 years ago, has been lauded for continually aiding Barbadians in their pursuit of educational opportunities, regionally and internationally, even in the COVID-19 environment.
The Student Revolving Loan Fund (SRLF), established in 1977, was spoken about highly, as Minister of Education, Technological & Vocational Training, Kay McConney, addressed an Anniversary & Awards Dinner at Mahogany Ridge, Plum Tree Road, St. James, to mark this milestone, last night.
Noting that the SRLF had helped Barbadians from all social classes achieve their academic dreams, she told staff and other specially invited guests that “many of these persons are now making a solid contribution towards the development of our island in various spheres of activity” and Government was not “just building education but building families”.
Minister McConney disclosed that the Fund had, over the years, approved more than 15,000 loan applications valued at over $500 million for applicants studying online, locally, regionally, and internationally.
“This has allowed Barbadians to be exposed to the highest educational standards and to opportunities without boundaries. In addition, the areas of study have ranged from the traditional to the non-traditional, with the aim of developing a cadre of trained and qualified Barbadians equipped to not only assist in nation building but to assume leadership in global environments, fully aware of the rapidly, changing educational landscape,” she acknowledged.
Adding that in 2010, Government moved to ensure more Barbadians could benefit from the SRLF, the Education Minister recalled that the scope of the enabling legislation was also expanded and amended to allow persons studying part-time, and online to access loans from the Fund.
Also pointing out that the maximum loan that could be granted was increased, Ms. McConney said: “That amount now stands at $125,000. Furthermore, the SRLF was allowed to accept collateral security, such as insurance policies, bonds, and property, for loans in addition to other sureties.”
She further noted that Government’s intention was not only to make the loans accessible from the SRLF but also “more affordable”.
As a result, longer repayment periods were introduced; interest rates on loans were kept low, and no interest was charged during the study period of the loan. These measures, she insisted, were taken to ensure that no financial obstacles existed to prevent Barbadians from pursuing education at the highest levels.
However, Minister McConney stressed that for the SRLF to fulfill its mandate and continue to provide loans to deserving Barbadians on concessionary terms, those fortunate enough to have benefited from it had to recognise their moral and legal responsibility to honour their commitments by repaying the SRLF, in a timely manner.
Though lamenting that historically this had been a challenge, she expressed satisfaction that in recent years the Fund had been improving its systems to collect and enhance its efforts to ensure borrowers repaid loans in a timely manner.
She added that by the same token, the SRLF continues to show balance, by showing compassion and understanding in cases where borrowers are experiencing genuine difficulties. Alluding to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said during this time, several accommodations were put in place to assist borrowers and these would remain available.
This, notwithstanding, Barbadians were warned by the Education Minister that the SRLF would spare no effort in its attempts to recover funds from borrowers. “The regular and prompt loan repayment will ensure that this Fund remains viable to continue to assist other citizens,” she emphasised.