Revamped plan aimed at equality bull's-eye

June 1, 2001

A revision of Ghana's university loan scheme, designed to improve equity and make the sector more financially viable, could be up and running by the start of the academic year in September.

Proposals include the introduction of means testing, loans that reflect the costs of study, more rigorous recovery of debts and the involvement of the private sector.

Student loans are a key component of support arrangements for poor undergraduates. Government-funded scholarships and bursaries are also available.

With families becoming increasingly reliant on informal sources of income, means testing may prove difficult. But the government is keen that students in the greatest need do not miss out.

Low-interest loans are available to all students and are worth 1 million cedis (£990) a year. Loans are subsidised by contributions to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust.

But the system has not proved viable. The scheme was set up in 1988 before student numbers swelled from about 10,000 to close to 30,000 due to the rapid expansion of polytechnics.

The economy has since collapsed, and the scheme is heavily in debt. Graduates start repaying when they find work, but with rising graduate unemployment and poor monitoring systems, many loans remain unpaid.

Groundwork to replace the system has already been laid. Some 2.5 per cent of value-added tax is being ploughed into the Ghana Education Trust Fund, set up last year.

Later this year, a company will be established to take over administration of the new loan scheme. The National Council for Tertiary Education, which is working on the scheme with the education ministry, hopes that private banks can be enticed into the student loan market.

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