This post if part of the Financial Information Month 2016: Student Loan Series. During the Month of October, I will be sharing information about Caribbean Student Loans, stories from borrowers and highlighting the missed opportunities to address the current issues with Student Loan System in the Eastern Caribbean.
Today I am sharing Kimalee’s answers to questions about her experience with her Caribbean Student Loan from the Grenada Development Bank that she submitted via the Share Your Story Form. She completed an Honours Bachelor’s Degree in Human Rights and Law and a Master’s Degree in Legal Studies, both at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Kimalee currently lives and works in Toronto Canada and is the Co-Director & Project Coordinator for Groundation Grenada, a social action collective that supports innovative change. Here is Kimalee Caribbean Student Loan Story.
Question 1: What best describes your experience with having a Caribbean Student Loan?
I have a lot of issues with my Caribbean Student loan.
Question 2: When you first took out your student loan, what was your understanding of what you signed up for?
That my education would be paid for; that it wouldn’t be a concern until I had graduated and had gotten a job and that I would be finished paying it within a few years.
Question 3: Was it clear to you what the interest rate was, the amortization method used, how interest would accrue while you were in school & during the repayment period?
No, not really.
Question 4: Were you the first in your immediate family/ household to go to college and take out a Caribbean Student Loan?
Question 5: Did anyone in your family have a student loan who could provide guidance and tips to help you navigate your own student loan?
Question 6: Share your experience navigating your student loan? What information was provide to help you understand your loan? Describe your experience communicating with your lender, and the customer service you received.
My mother was my main contact with the bank as I was studying in Canada. I realized only years after that she had been contributing to my loan while I was in school. When I finally took control of my loan from my mother, I felt a bit like a fish out of water. It was my first loan, the monthly payments were and continue to be quite high and trying to secure consistent and clear information from the bank was always a fight.
Question 7: Since having your student loan, how easy or difficult has it been to request disbursements, payment status or account balance information from your lender?
It seems as though it’s not common practice for the bank to provide regular statement updates which I’ve always found quite odd so I”m constantly having to ask and intervene which is frustrating.
Question 8: What have you found the most effective way to communicate with your lender?
Contacting a specific staff member who is always helpful.
Question 9: Is there any aspect of your student loan that you are still unclear of today (e.g. how payments are applied to your balances, how many payments you have left of how to pay off your loan faster, how to get your loan out of default, how to resolve an ongoing dispute)?
I am still a bit unclear how payments are applied to the loan and though my payments are up to date, I’m unclear about the status as it’s been months since I’be received a status update.
Question 10: Have you had any disputes with you lender related account transactions, outstanding principal or interest balances, fees or payments not applied as you expected?
Yes. There were times when I noticed that the balance on my loan had increased so there has definitely been confusion on my end re: how payments are applied.
Question 11: Have you faced the situation of not being in a position to pay your required monthly payment? If so, did you request temporary relief from payment and was there clear information about how to seek out and be approved this relief?
Definitely! There have been many times. I was able to secure a reduction in the interest rate applied to my loan and again, due to confusion, I’m not sure if this was due to temporary relief or over-payments but for a few months, I didn’t have to contribute to my student loan
Question 12: What did you wish you had known about Caribbean student loans before you took one out?
That it would feel like having a mortgage without a house and that the repayment schedule would have been this long and difficult
Question 13: What advice would you give to someone who is considering taking out a Caribbean student loan?
As much as you can, first try to seek out scholarships; a student loan should be your absolute last choice and if you do need to take one out, first go to your credit union as opposed to a bank.
Question 14: Share any other thoughts you have about Caribbean student loans or your lender.
People are being encouraged more and more to go/return to school and further their education; and the chances of finding a job without a form of post-secondary education (PSE) degree is becoming increasingly more difficult; therefore it is imperative that we make access to PSE a lot more [easy] and equitable. It is irresponsible and unjust to create a debt-ridden population, must of whom already come from working-class families and backgrounds who then remain in debt for the rest of their lives or who spend a significant amount of time paying off a loan which is sometimes three times as much as the original loan amount due to interest rates and who are then unable to invest in the economy.
Thank you Kimalee for sharing your story!
What has your experience been with your student loan? I would love to feature your story. Your can submit your story all throughout out the Month of October 2016. Just click the below to join the regional and diasporic conversation!
Submit Your Story