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TSLB helps thousands

Sikeli Qounadovu
Wednesday, February 07, 2018

MORE than 22,000 Fijians have been helped under the Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Board (TSLB) since the initiative was implemented by Government in 2014.

TSLB chairman Dixon Seeto said this was an unprecedented massive investment by the Fijian Government in providing funding for tertiary education.

He said the overall aim of the funding was to build human resources capacity for the various sectors of the Fijian economy.

Mr Seeto said the two major government schemes administered by TSLB were the) National Toppers Scheme (NTS) and the Tertiary Education Loans Scheme (TELS).

"Under the National Toppers Scheme students who successfully complete their studies do not have to repay the amount expended by the Fijian Government on their studies (except for the following reasons) but provide service to the country for a period equivalent to 1.5 times the duration of their sponsorship.

"For instance, if the scholarship is for three years, the graduate has to serve Fiji for 4.5 years. However, under the following circumstances, the student has to repay:

(i) Terminating the scholarship for migration. Scholarships are meant for capacity building for the Fijian market and not to be used as a cheap source or funding and a passport for migration purposes. Students planning to migrate should not take the award;

(ii) Terminating the scholarship in favour of an international scholarship. By taking the scholarship in the first instance, such students deprive other Fijians the opportunity to enjoy the sch­o­larship and the associated privileges;

(iii) Academically terminated by the Higher Education Institutions because of poor academic results; and

(iv) Terminated by the Higher Education Institution for disciplinary reasons.

"In case the scholarship is terminated, the student has to repay the total amount expended on their studies with a penalty of 10 per cent," he said.

Mr Seeto said claims that students had to repay 150 per cent were baseless and without any merit.

He said TSLB would have expected the student to establish the facts (all information is available on their website www.tslb.com.fj) before making such sweeping statement.

"Under TELS, like any other loans facility, the borrower (student) has to repay the amount borrowed," said Mr Seeto

Mr Seeto said Government, as always, was the custodian of Fijian taxpayers' money.

"It is important to note that TSLB is a custodian of the Fijian taxpayers' money which is held in trust on behalf of the Fijian Government.

"Students must realise that the funds are not provided for them to complete their studies and then migrate with an expectation that the repayments can be avoided.

"The Fijian taxpayers also expect a return on their investment and not the returns to be transferred to the rest of the world.

"Majority of the students applying for TELS assistance have a combined family income of less than $25,000. As such, majority of the lending by TSLB is interest-free.

"Even the maximum interest rate of 2 per cent for students whose combined family income is above $100,000 is extremely low and an attempt to ensure that all Fijians have access to quality higher education.

"With the repayments spread over 8-20 years, the lending attracts a negative real interest rate," Mr Seeto said..

"However, the Fijian Government's lending is not a commercial venture but an obligation of the Government to ensure the fulfilment of the constitutional right to education for every Fijian.

"A TELS recipient is not required to pay any penalty if they successfully complete their studies and repay their debt while at the same time providing labour for the Fijian market.

" Any penalty applicable on the borrowed amount is avoidable and a student does not have to pay any penalty if the student is not faced with the following circumstances:

* Terminating the scholarship for migration;

* Terminating the scholarship in favour of an international scholarship;

* Academically terminated by the Higher Education Institutions because of poor academic results;

* Terminated by the Higher Education Institution because of disciplinary reasons.

"The borrowing by the students is a personal choice. They can look for alternative source of funding or even borrow at commercial interest rates from the banks.

"The best option to avoid repaying is work hard and secure a NTS scholarship. However, the interest rates and the terms and conditions of lending by the Fijian Government cannot be matched by any player in the Fijian market.

"Just like borrowing being a personal choice, payment of any penalty (which is 10 per cent and not 150 per cent as claimed by the students) is also a personal choice.

"A student does not have to pay any penalty by doing two simple things:

(i) Successfully complete their studies; and

(ii) Fulfil the requirements as per the signed loan agreement. That is work and pay at the rate of 20 per cent of the annual gross income."








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