MoE looks at recommendations of students' loan review

Staff Writer
The Ministry of Education (MoE) is still looking at the recommendations in the recently released final report of the review of the grant/loan sponsorship scheme of the Department of the Tertiary Education Funding (DTEF).

Deputy permanent secretary responsible for the department, Golekanye Setume said yesterday that they are busy planning how to implement the recommendations. "This process will make us take a position on how to inform the policy on these recommendations," he explained. 

The final report of the review was released on November 25, 2009. The Evaluation Services Team - Botswana (BEST) recommended a new direction in human resources for the economy, award of government sponsorships and recovery of student loans for the scheme. The research team felt that since its inception in 1995, the scheme has never been reviewed and as such has become outdated, failing to adequately align with the present and future economic and social challenges.

The review team, led by Professor Sheldon Weeks assisted by Dr Shabani Ndzinge, recommended that cost sharing, cost recovery and equity considerations should be well balanced in the scheme. They suggested that parents would pay 50 percent of tuition fees upfront with government paying the other 50 percent.

Thereafter all other costs will be borne by the beneficiary, in the form of a loan from government, which will be repayable over a maximum of 15 years after completion of studies, with a grace period of three months from the date of completion. The team said the loan, as is the case in the current scheme, remains interest free. However, there should be a 10 percent discount for students who complete studies on time.

The report states that students whose parents cannot pay the 50 percent tuition fees will be put through a means test to establish what portion they can afford, if any. Those who cannot afford to pay anything at all would end up receiving 100 percent support from government on tuition fees as a grant but will still have to shoulder the 100 percent loan on all other costs.

The researchers explained that this option includes effective cost sharing by beneficiaries right from the start

thus freeing more government funds for sponsorship of an additional number of deserving students.

The second option is for government to pay 100 percent of tuition fees and the beneficiary covers all other costs in the form of an interest free loan repayable in 15 years. The option does not assign any responsibility for the cost of education to the parents of the beneficiary.

The third option is for the beneficiaries to shoulder 100 percent of the costs of the education.Those who need government support will be given a loan that covers upto 100 percent of tuition and all other costs at the election of the beneficiary. Here students who are able to pay upfront and avoid taking a loan are encouraged to do so.

The fourth and last option states that government offers financial support only to those students who cannot afford to pay for their education. Under this option, beneficiaries who are able to finance their education partly will be expected to do so. While this option has been included as an option, BEST feels that it should be avoided because it is fairly complicated.

The means test that would be required and the likelihood of disputes it may bring between the department and beneficiaries is one of the weaknesses cited in the option.

The report indicates that three surveys were conducted with 266 University of Botswana undergraduate students in three faculties, being Science, Humanities and Business. A survey of tertiary graduates between 1994 and 2009 and a survey of employers on their views concerning the supply and demand of graduates was also undertaken.

Benchmarking and comparative studies were carried out through field trips to five countries-Sweden, the Netherlands, Australia, Ghana and South Africa. Data was gathered from other informants in the United States of America, England and Namibia.

Each of the countries has approached the challenge presented by grants and loans, tuition and maintenance costs in different ways.



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