New student loan scheme to have higher family-income limit
The new student-loan scheme to be created by merging two existing schemes might follow the Student Loan Fund (SLF) model in focusing on helping poor students, though the eligibility limit on family income will be higher than Bt150,000 a year, the official in charge said yesterday.
SLF manager Prempracha Supasamout, who is overseeing the merger of the SLF and the Income Contingency Loan (ICL), said the new scheme should focus on helping poor students and include families that were a little better off - with an annual income of more than Bt150,000 - but still could not afford university fees and expenses.
Therefore the new scheme will keep the SLF loan condition limiting family income, in contrast to the ICL scheme which grants loans regardless of financial status, he said.
On Wednesday, a panel led by the former president of Dhurakij Pundit University, Boonserm Veesakul, will meet to study the pros and cons of the merger. Its conclusion will be forwarded to a meeting of the SLF and ICL boards on November 24. Finance Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula will then submit an amendment to the SLF Act on the merged student-loan system.
The system should be implemented in the first semester of next year, Prempracha said.
About 30 per cent of SLF loan recipients failed to repay their debts after graduation because they were unemployed or earned small salaries, he said.
Meanwhile, students and university officials welcomed the merger of the SLF and ICL schemes and hoped it would have clearer loan conditions.
Naresuan University (NU) freshman Wissanu Singharang, from a well-to-do family, said he stopped borrowing from the ICL in the second semester after learning how much he would have to repay after graduation due to the high interest rate. He said he was not clear about the ICL repayment conditions when he signed the contract.
The ICL scheme requires loan recipients to start repayments when their salaries reach Bt16,000 a month, with an interest rate equivalent to inflation from the day the loan was granted, whilst the SLF loans carry interest of 1 per cent per year, starting one year after graduation.
Other NU students said they did not have enough information to compare the ICL and SLF schemes, as they had assumed only ICL loans were on offer due to the strong publicity given to this scheme.
Since loans under the ICL scheme come with the restriction that the money be used only for tuition, NU freshman Assawin Sittiprapa said he had to sign another contract with the SLF to borrow Bt24,000 to cover other expenses.
Kwanjai Chukijkhun, an admission official at Kasetsart University, said the ICL scheme gave equal access to loans for all applicants and aimed to encourage students to work part-time.
However, she said, many freshmen failed to report for the part-time campus jobs they had registered for, which pay Bt40 per hour, because they needed the time to study.
Kwanjai said she agreed with the merger because it would benefit poor students and make calculating loan interest less complicated.