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Education expert cautions government on university loans

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An education expert, Steve Sharra, has urged government to exercise caution on Higher Education Loan and Grant Scheme as some institutions can abuse the system by raising fees to make huge profits from poor students.

The Higher Education Loans and Grants Bill, which President Peter Mutharika already assented to, established a university students’ loan scheme for needy students who may wish to enroll and study in other tertiary education institutions, including private universities.

Sharra said the move from allowances to the provision of loans is a good one as long as the rationale is to stop spending money on students who come from wealthy families and can pay for their education.

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“If the change fails to stop the wastage, then it won’t serve its intended purpose. The student loans idea is very good. It needs to be extended to students in accredited private universities as well, and to postgraduate students. But we must exercise caution with the loans. We must put in place reasonable, effective measures to recover the money over time.

“But we must also watch out for institutions that can abuse the system by profiting from poor students. There is a danger that colleges can start raising tuition fees in the hope of cashing in on the scheme.

“This is what is happening in other countries. We must always make sure to protect poor students and not put them at risk of missing out on higher education,” Sharra said.

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Acting Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology Manfred Ndovi said the planned system does not give the universities any chance to abuse the scheme.

“I do not think they will have any room to exploit the loan scheme because the loans that will be disbursed through the scheme will be determined by the applications. The amount that we will be giving to each student will be in accordance with their needs and financial capabilities.

“So, we do not think students from poor families will be going to very expensive universities with the hope that the government will pay for them. They will be going to institutions with reasonable fees,” Ndovi said.

In 2015/16 budget statement, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe announced that government resolved to abolish the payment of allowances to new students in public universities, and has created the scheme to enable deserving students acquire loans and grants in support of their education.

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