TELS Sponsored ‘Absconded/Inactive’ Students Seek Bond Service Status Updates

The Fiji Revenue and Customs Service (FRCS) has been receiving queries from students sponsored under the Tertiary Education Loan Scheme (TELS), including some of the 20,000-plus students for whom authorities had no forwarding information since they dropped out of studies.

In the most recent update, as of early this month, the TELS had a total of 21,685 students who owed $160 million and were marked as absconded/inactive, but they were known to be in the country.

FRCS Director of Taxation Momina Beg said that the TELS students categorised as not graduated, absconded, or inactive by the Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Services (TSLS) are part of the up to 40% of TELS students who have been reaching out to FRCS to inquire about their current bond service status.

“It’s quite surprising that among the students who are querying about the bond repayment are from that number who haven’t completed their studies,” Beg said. “Most of them are working. When they heard that they would be able to get clearance after serving, they reached out to us to find out how long they have served and how many more years/months they need to serve.”

“We have had a lot of TELS student enquiring. A big number of students are currently working and must have completed the years. Some would be halfway and they just need to know the time left to complete their bond. So most of them are coming to us with their details to show they have completed, and they will get their completion certificate.”

Beg also reaffirms TELS sponsored students need not only to work for the government to fulfill their bond requirements, that it can be any paid employment in Fiji, whether in the public or private sector. She said that there is also no need for a separate bond form, as the legislation automatically converts the outstanding debt to a bond once it comes into effect on 31 July 2023.

According to the new legislation, TELS-sponsored students will not be required to repay their loans in cash; instead, they must demonstrate their service to the country through paid employment, either in the public or private sector. The bond service period will be determined based on the years of study multiplied by 1.5. Those who have already provided the required service can obtain a clearance letter from FRCS.

For graduates who studied on TELS and are currently residing overseas, they will continue repaying their loans through existing arrangements with FRCS. If they disengage from this arrangement, the pending debts will be recovered from their approved guarantors.

Continuing and existing TELS students will have their loans converted to bond agreements under the same amendment. They are not required to visit the TSLS or FRCS to have their agreements changed. Sponsored students intending to travel abroad for medical, vacation, or temporary work purposes will still require temporary travel clearance from FRCS after receiving a Tuition and Allowance Statement from TSLS.

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