Scrapping Student Loan Guarantor option a mediocre approach to governance. - Abdul Faisal Iddrisu

Scrapping Student Loan Guarantor option a mediocre approach to governance. - Abdul Faisal Iddrisu

Student loan since its introduction has offered a significant relief to millions of not-well to do Ghanaian tertiary students. The scheme has also seen several adjustments including increments on the minimum amount  disbursed to students (beneficiaries) from time to time. For the 2019/20 academic year alone, the Student Loan Trust Fund has disbursed funds to over 21,000 Ghanaian students bringing the total disbursement to an accumulated 180,000 of student beneficiaries.

What however remains the greatest challenge to the scheme is the lack of repayment, as many of the beneficiaries who are due for repayment delay unduly in doing so. Currently, the Trust Fund has disbursed a total of Gh¢44m in default to these beneficiaries with over Gh¢100m due for repayment.

The *Guarantor* as stated by the Student Loan Act 820: "A  borrower shall provide at least one guarantor acceptable to the Board prior to the disbursement of the loan by the Board," becomes a collateral just like in the case of any other loan facility. In case of default, not only does the SLTF rely on these guarantors to trace back the beneficiaries but recoup the monies from the guarantors.

Removing the *Guarantor* option as promised by Dr. Bawumia on Saturday at the NPP's manifesto launch in Cape Coast, can only be a vote buying mechanism and can only add further bottlenecks to the effective disbursement of the loan.

It is instructive to note that, prior to 2017 the loan disbursement takes about two weeks into every academic semester after a successful application. The story has however changed as students/beneficiaries have to wait for several months before the money comes. In many instances, as an SRC President, I am aware of the huddle these students are put through as a result of this delay that is necessitated by lack of funds at the SLTF. These students are prevented from writing the end of semester examination in many cases only for the disbursement to be done in the vacation; at a time that the harm has long been caused.

Removing the *Guarantor* option would only add the student loan to the many non-performing loans book the Ghana government has to deal with. Recouping the debts from beneficiaries is as significant as disbursing the loan on time because a percentage of the recouped debts is used for another disbursement for new beneficiaries.

This promise by Dr. Bawumia and the NPP can only compound the many problems the SLTF is burdened with and it would rather be appropriate to turn the loan into an allowance scheme which would have no repayment option after all.

If Dr. Bawumia really mean good for Ghanaian tertiary students, he should start looking at how possible his government can ensure effective and timely disbursement of the student loan and reduce the interest rate on it rather than this mediocre promise aimed at winning the votes of these deprived students.

If Dr. Bawumia really meant good for us, he should be concerned with the exorbitant bills Private University students pay in respect to affiliation fees that are paid to our mentor institutions.

The current situation with respect to the payment of affiliation fees is troubling and requires urgent response from government towards the passing of the Private University Bill and the granting of autonomy to these private tertiary institutions.

Scraping of the *Guarantor* option would further deepen the woes of the millions of Ghanaian students who depend on the student loan to cushion themselves through school. Drop it now!

By: Faisel Abdul-Iddrisu

SRC President, EP University College.

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