Putrajaya has been urged to review the waiver and discounts granted to Higher Education Loan Fund (PTPTN) recipients to ensure sustainability of the scheme.
At a forum on the PTPTN scheme in Kuala Lumpur last night, Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming said the present system would encourage bad payment habits or benefit those who are less in need.
For example, he said the present discount scheme being offered for defaulters would encourage loan recipients to default and wait for a discount.
"I can wait until I get blacklisted. I don't care, because I know the discount is coming. Once the discount is in place, I will repay in one lump sum. I will stand to gain," said Ong.
The ones who are most likely to be able to take advantage of this, said Ong, were students from a wealthy background.
"From a progressive standpoint, this is a very bad policy. You are rewarding those people with rich parents," he said.
Help those really in need
A better system, he said, would entail an automatic deduction system similar to the system employed for the Employees Provident Fund.
On the waiver scheme for first class scholars, Ong said that this should only be applied on a needs-based basis and PTPTN should screen the borrower's financial background.
He said borrowers from affluent families tend to have advantages when going into university, which may increase their chances at performing well.
"With more resources, they are able to buy laptops or have more reading materials when they are younger. Studies in developed countries has shown that those from families with better income - the middle class and above - are always over-represented when it comes to those obtaining first class honours.
"So what this means is that by giving first class honours scholarships, you are likely helping those who from richer backgrounds," said Ong, a Fulbright scholar himself, who stressed that his proposals were strictly his own and not that of his party DAP.
At the present rate, said Ong, PTPTN would either have to depend on more funding from the federal government, or give out fewer loans in the future.
PTPTN needs to improve
Ong had also urged Putrajaya to abolish the Public Service Department (JPA) and Mara overseas scholarship scheme, as the funds should be spent on local institutions.
Jean Vaneisha, representative of youth NGO Team Challenger, told the forum that the PTPTN should visit local universities to educate students on how to repay their loans.
"It is not just laziness... There is a lack of awareness and a lack of accessibility to the places that collect the money," the 21-year-old political science student said.
The PTPTN website, for example, was difficult to navigate, compared to the Biasiswa Selangor web page, she said.
Another panelist Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad told the forum that free education, similar to systems found in Scotland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Chile, was the way forward.
Nik Nazmi, who is the Selangor exco member in charge of education, added that students should also consider technical and vocational education to avoid an oversupply of university graduates.- Mkini