Government loans to students at Malaysia's 200-plus private colleges have more than doubled over the past year.
Last year, 16,103 students from private higher education institutions received loans, compared with only 7,322 in 1999.
Malaysia's National Higher Education Fund Corporation has issued a list containing 992 programmes in 237 private colleges for which loans can be obtained. Corporation chief executive Mohamed Abdul Latiff said the list of approved courses was based on institutions recommended to the education ministry by the National Accreditation Board.
Initially, only students in government universities and colleges could apply to the fund, but eligibility was extended to private students last year. To date, 333,000 students have benefited from the fund, which was established in 1997. Last year, loans worth M$6l2 million (£112 million) were granted to 91,950 diploma and first-degree students studying either at local public or private institutions of higher education. This year, M$1.3 billion has been allocated to 130,000 students.
The size of loans varies according to institution and type of programme. Students on degree-level courses at public universities receive M$6,500 a year, while those in private institutions get M$16,000 a year. Those pursuing medical degrees at the International Medical University are eligible for a M$20,000 loan, while diploma students receive M$5,000.