THE Higher Education Loan Programme (Help) is aimed at helping more youths to afford access to higher education. However, many Papua New Guineans have failed to differentiate the difference between Help and scholarships. The National’s reporter SAMUEL BARIASI looks into the works and details of Help.
EDUCATION is key to a country’s socio-economic progress. Just look at what China has achieved in just four decades – through education and technology.
From an undeveloped and poor nation, China today is recognised globally as the world’s second largest (if not the No.1) economy in the world, after the US. China’s science and technology is touted as nothing less than second best in the world.
Education is the foundation for any nation’s socio-economic progress and success because the quality of its education and students determines the quality of its human capital and leaders.
The moulding of quality human capital is not only a prerequisite for a country’s growing and progressive socio-economic success, its continuous sustainability determines the continuous pace of growth.
Papua New Guinea (PNG)’s Prime Minister James Marape had last year, three months into office as the country’s 8th premier in May, announced that his Government would introduce a tertiary or higher education loan scheme or programme (Help).
Help was announced in Parliament by Treasury Minister Ian Ling-Stuckey in his maiden Budget 2020 presentation on Nov 28.
Help is aimed at helping potentially bright students to continue with their tertiary education in Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) or public universities. Help loans are approved to help such students settle their school fees or to help ease the financial burden of their parents in settling or paying school fees.
Kuman … payment would be made to IHLs
The Department of Higher Education Research Science & Technology (DHERST) secretary Fr Jan Czuba revealed last month that over K200 million was allocated by the Government for Help.
DHERST Minister made an announcement at the UPNG orientation on Feb 4 that K60 million of the allocation would be given to HEIs by their registrations’ closing.
Kuman said the payment would be made to IHLs for students who wished to apply for Help.
“I will ensure Czuba distributes this money to all IHLs after registration of students are closed,” he said, adding that schools should accept students because payments would be honoured by the Government.
Czuba … Help’s disbursement expected in April
DHERST secretary Fr Jan Czuba said help would be available in the second semester of this academic year.
He said students may indicate in their registrations with IHLs that they would be applying for Help and that the settlement of fees was expected on April 27.
DHERST also sent a circular to IHLs for students applying for Help to fill a declaration form that would enable them to register while waiting for Help funding.
Addressing heads of IHLs on Jan 21, Marape said all students, regardless of their GPA (grade point average), could apply for Help.
“If you can afford to pay your school fees, that’s fine, you don’t need Help. It (Help) is for students who are struggling to pay their fees,” Marape said.
He said the terms and conditions of the loan would be revealed once Help was finalised for roll out.
Furthermore, Marape said students on Tertiary Education Student Assistance Scheme (Tesas) could also apply for funding from Help.
“They (students on Tesas) can apply for the compulsory amounts required by their respective institutions, the Government will settle the Tesas component,” he added.
Czuba said only IHLs registered with DHERST with accredited programmes would be eligible to get funding from Help.
In a statement published earlier last month, Czuba said students needed to have National Identification (NID) cards and birth certificates from the PNG Civil Identity Registry as well as Tax Identification Numbers (TINs) from the Internal Revenue Commission (IRC).
“These requirements are put in place so that students can repay their loans after graduating,” he added.
National Planning and Monitoring Minister Sam Basil in Parliament on Dec 5 said that students applying for Help would be able to get their NID documents processed within 10 days.
He said that would be made possible by a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between his department and DHERST.
“There will be a live link with institutions with a turnaround time of 10 days where all students’ NID cards and birth certificates will be processed.”
To this date, there is no advice from the Government at the moment about the Tax Identification Number to be obtained from IRC.
In an interview with The National last month, Czuba said students would start repaying the loan six months after graduation.
“The ones earning below a certain amount (to be announced soon) would be excluded, but the guarantors will still be responsible to repay the loan from Help,” he said, adding that Marape explained on Jan 21 that the proposed repayment rate was 10 per cent.
“This is a new policy that we are working on.
“We will explore all the possibilities until we arrive at workable terms and conditions that suit our capabilities,” he said.
Czuba said: “The six month grace period could be adjusted too. There is an announcement out already about repaying loan after six months but we will tidy up those requirements into the course of this year.
“It (Help) is meant to be soft on Papua New Guinean students who are borrowing so that they can pay throughout the course of their lives.
“I have done my calculations. If you borrow K60,000 and once you are employed or engaged in business activities, you will be repaying about K50 to K60 per month for the rest of your life, which is more affordable.”
He said there would be an arrangement for those who would be engaged in business or the small medium enterprise sector.
Czuba said applications for Help would be done online. Help contracts would be signed by students and guarantors (parents or guardians).
In an interview with The National on Dec 5, he said DHERST would be developing a software to process tertiary students’ Help applications.
He said the purpose of the software was to avoid nepotism or “wantok system” when selecting students eligible for loans.
“This software will be similar to the online selection system so that eligible students are selected on merit and not because we know them personally or because their parents have influence,” Czuba said.