Fiji Government’s TELS Debt Forgiveness bond arrangement takes into account the years students have already worked in-country and stands to benefit over 40,000 students who collectively owe more than $600 million since 2014.
The bonding arrangement in the TELS Debt Forgiveness program is calculated by multiplying the number of years of study by 1.5. This means students who studied for three years, their bond period would be 4.5 years. Students who have worked through the required bond period are considered to have fulfilled their obligation. Similarly, students who have partially served their bond only need to complete the remaining years. However, those who choose not to fulfill the bond service must make a payment equivalent to the outstanding amount instead.
Either way, Minister for Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Professor Biman Prasad says the government ensures “that these students serve their nation and do justice to the taxpayers as used to be the practice in the past.”
As of February 28 this year, the government had recovered about 6% of nearly $653 million disbursed in TELS loans since 2014. The recovered amount includes approximately $10 million given as discounts to encourage prompt payment. Out of the 56,995 students assisted, including 51,649 under TELS, since the inception of the scholarship and loans scheme almost 10 years ago, nearly 47% have graduated.
In order to enable TELS debt forgiveness, amendments will be made to the TSLS Act. These changes will allow for the conversion of loan agreements to bond arrangements for all students under different TELS schemes, except the In-Service scheme. The amendments are expected to be completed by the end of this month, paving the way for the Fijian Scholarship Scheme, starting from August 1, 2023.
Fijian Scholarship Scheme
Under this new arrangement, all students will be bonded as well, to serve the country.
In the 2023-24 Budget, the government has allocated $148.2 million under the FSS, covering the sponsorship of 8,720 new students, including study grants, as well as the funding of 9,148 existing students.
The FSS encompasses several schemes, each with its own eligibility criteria, one of which factors in minimum cut-off marks, which differ based on whether students reside in urban centers or rural and maritime areas.