SUBANG JAYA: Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen has disparaged the role that the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) plays in the education of Malaysians, saying it is encouraging the erosion of quality.
He alleged that many borrowers were studying in private colleges and universities that don’t give them quality education. He said he had many complaints about unqualified lecturers, sub-par facilities and poor management.
“There are a lot of private colleges and universities which pay more attention to collecting fees than serving as institutions of higher learning,” he said.
“This is worrying not only because loans aren’t being channelled towards quality education but also because students are left with huge debts that may not be worth it.”
Wong, a PKR member who works on policy matters for Pakatan Harapan, said the coalition, assuming it wins the coming general election, would conduct a thorough audit of the private education sector.
“We want to make sure PTPTN loans go to private institutions of higher learning with a good track record and credibility.”
He said those given education licences shouldn’t treat PTPTN as a cash cow.
He also said the Pakatan government would review the need for PTPTN to remain as a government agency.
“The broad principle is the government should provide free education, grants and scholarships, but not loans,” he said. “We should leave education loans to the banks.”
He said Pakatan would not wipe out existing debts to PTPTN but would wait until a borrower had begun earning a taxable income before demanding repayment from him or her.
Recently, Higher Education Minister Idris Jusoh alleged that many defaulting PTPTN borrowers were regularly servicing their housing and car loans.
Student activist Adam Adli claimed that these borrowers’ refusal to settle their debts was an act of protest against the requirement to pay for university education. He said study loans should be abolished and education must be free for every citizen.
Wong said Pakatan’s position was that all loans would have to be settled “to set the right culture of financial discipline and responsibility”. Pakatan would consider interest-free repayments, he added.
He said the Pakatan government would give grants and scholarships to deserving students, as would companies linked to it.
He added that tax incentives would be given to corporations that awarded scholarships to students.
He reiterated a Pakatan promise that it would consider making education at public universities free, saying the tuition fees would cost the government less than RM2 billion a year.
“We estimate that RM1.77 billion is needed to cover the total fees – excluding living expenses – for all Malaysian students in public universities, polytechnics and community colleges.”
He said the money would come from savings from the elimination of corruption and wastage in the higher education budget alone.
As for living expenses, he said Pakatan would consider giving grants to those who are from poor families.
“We will encourage students to be economically self-sustainable by working part-time, just as students overseas work part-time for experience and money.
“This is a delicate matter of providing welfare support and giving tough love so that students become more resilient and responsible with money.”