SFB 2011 graduation: Government has introduced a new students’ loan scheme for university students
According to a government paper explaining the new scheme, the mechanism will be maintain quality and equity of education, ensuring that tertiary education institutions have sufficient budgets that are aligned with the number of students.
The new mechanism will also enable high performing students to get access to student loans, in a way that will ensure reducing burden on financing tertiary education from Government. It will ensure that parents meet the cost of tertiary education for their children.
In the old government loan scheme arrangement, only 25 percent and 50 percent of the funds was a loan portion repayable for sciences and non-science students respectively. The rest of the money given to students was a grant.
Under the new arrangement the selection criteria for students to access the loans has changed, fully cancelling eligibility for tuition fees loans for students in category 5 and 6 of poverty level barometer Ubudehe.
It also scrapped eligibility for living allowance loans for all the students except the poorest in category 1 and 2 of Ubudehe.
The Rwanda Education Board which is charged with implementing the loan scheme says that system for loan recovery in the past has been very poor.
“We have been able to recover only 8 percent of the total loan to students in the last 6 years,” says the Deputy Director General of Higher Education Students Loan Department at REB Louise Karamage.
In the new arrangement, unlike the previous one there will be no grants component and all funds paid out by government for students in tertiary institutions will be fully recoverable.
The 100 per cent of total tuition and living allowances that the government has been paying for for poor students will be a loan fully repayable by the students and they are planning to channel these loans through a bank like BRD.
The Minister of Education Dr. Vincent Biruta says that the reforms will help the government to cut expenditure on university education and allow it to focus on infrastructural development.
Speaking to students at the National University of Rwanda (NUR) over the weekend, Minister Biruta said that the Government took the decision to change the policy on grounds of limited means but also wanted parents to take responsibility of their children’s education.
“Our Government cares about education of Rwandans but it has limited means. The Government made effort to enable each Rwandan to complete secondary school,” he said
He added: “We believe that parents should help the government by being responsible for tertiary education studies of their children or students themselves as nowadays there are examples of some students who work overnight and study daytime and vice versa looking for tuition fee.”
However, a cross section of university students are not happy with the new scheme saying that it is abrupt and should have been transitional.
“The policy should have applied to the new comers into the system, but not those already in because it is going to force some of us out of school,” said Fred Gasigwa a third year student at the School of Finace and Banking (SFB).
Students say that most of them fall under the third and fourth category of Ubudehe which is required to pay 50 percent of tuition and cater for their living expenses and yet this category especially in the rural areas cannot afford it.
“It means I will have to pay about Rwf500, 000 annually and cater for my living expenses. My family is in the third category, but they cannot afford to do this. I see myself dropping out of school come September,” said Francine Umuhoza a second year student at the Kigali Institute of Education.