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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fresh graduates or fresh debtors?


The National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) came into implementation in 1997, and a total of RM56.4 billion been disbursed so far. The management complains that it has only received back RM8 billion to date from their borrowers.
Failure to repay the loan will land you in a court case, marked out in the Central Credit Reference Information System (CCRIS) and be barred from leaving the country. It was published in The Star on Sept 24 that 1.3 million loanees have been blacklisted in the CCRIS and 111,001 have been blacklisted by the Immigration Department. The numbers will keep increasing drastically in years to come.
Such measures will only complicate the repayment process. Fresh graduates need to get a job first before being able to repay their loan, but if their names are already in CCRIS, the possibility of the companies turning them down after a credit check is very high. Most of the companies require staffs to be independent - with a name that is already in the CCRIS, can one obtain a car or motor loan? How about if they are hired by overseas companies but are barred from travelling?
Although PTPTN has stated numerous times that the payback schedule starts only six months after a student’s graduation, countless students have been charged with arrears and their names have been moved to the CCRIS even within a month after their graduation.
In a country with such a high unemployment rate, pressures from PTPTN will only add to these young adults’ stress and contribute to mental illness.
For example, if only 500,000 of these fresh graduates go on strike and decide to force themselves into Parliament as a show of protest, can the ruling government handle the situation? These to-be voters will be filled with hatred towards the government and its machinery, so are the politicians ready to lose them?
Are we ready to face the consequences if these students attempt to launch a cyber protest and take the social media by storm? How will we be judged in the eyes of the world?
These people are our assets, our future leaders - their education should be seen as an investment by the government and not commercialised like what is being done now. Invest as in give out the loans as grants instead - up to the completion of their first degree.
Talking about human capital and the k-economy, shouldn’t we first of all strive for 100 percent literacy among our people? Literacy as in completing their tertiary education. RM 3 billion is being channelled out as Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) every year, why can’t that be converted into education grants? Our prime minister promised to return the Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections to the rakyat, why is it still not used to aid free education system?
This is a serious issue - we are producing fresh debtors out of public universities/colleges this day, not qualified graduates. Somewhere, some priorities, have not been set right.
Countries like Germany fully funds the education for its citizens and even foreigners. Dorothee Stapelfeldt, a senator in the northern city of Hamburg, was once quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “Tuition fees discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up studies. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany.”
This should be our concern, too. We too should be wanting every SPM leaver to complete at least his/her first degree without much hassle. It is about time the education loan system in this country is given a second thought with the intention to enforce education grants. I would like to reiterate, providing tertiary education should be seen as an investment and not as a business, our children are our assets, don’t turn them into debtors before they even start achieving.

S GOPINATH is president of the Malaysian Indian Network of Entrepreneurs Association (1MINE). -Mkini

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