Like most parents in Malaysia, the issue surrounding the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) is very close to our hearts.
The promise to solve the PTPTN debt among Malaysians won the election for Pakatan Harapan last year.
I am surprised that the PTPTN issue is considered “difficult” to solve. Let me give my two cents’ worth.
Solving the PTPTN issue helps graduates who are trying hard to earning a living. It would also help parents who are the guarantors, as well as future PTPTN borrowers in fulfilling their education dreams.
The key to my approach to solving the PTPTN is the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). In the past, there was criticism that questionable business ventures were entered into to help politicians and their children.
Now, I call upon EPF to help our children to start their future in the right way.
Firstly, PTPTN should not disturb the graduating students in their first five years after completing their studies.
I assume students will take one or two years to secure solid jobs and work as best as they can to make ends meet. They will probably get married and buy their first small vehicle and rent their first rooms.
Thus, in five years, it is most probable that their EPF contributions would reach about RM20,000 or RM30,000.
I propose that PTPTN work out a way with EPF to deduct RM15,000 from the account to pay off some of the PTPTN loans. The remainder can be deducted by monthly income for the next 10 years, which would not burden borrowers as they plan their lives.
Secondly, PTPTN should forego any loans by borrowers who have suffered chronic illness, accidents and even deaths so as not to burden the families in a double header problem. These families are left with a hurtful reminder. As such, future borrowers must obtain a life insurance of about 15-20 years span to be included in the loan amount.
Thirdly, PTPTN should take into account the issue of turnover in jobs where borrowers may be laid off or retrenched. I suggest a grace period of one year suspension of repayment so that borrowers can get back on their feet again. After the one year, PTPTN can request monthly deductions taken from the EPF account.
Fourthly, students who are unemployed and still waiting for jobs can be asked to do some charity work, NGO work or become teaching assistants in public schools, without a fixed salary but perhaps with a modest travel and food allowance.
PTPTN can help the country by allowing up to 25% off the loans of the students to be deducted if they were to prove community work of up to 1,000 hours at RM5 per hour. Thus, a maximum amount of RM5,000 can be deducted from the loan amount.
A proper auditing form and verification process can be made to facilitate this contribution. This way, our youth can appreciate volunteerism as well as add on important management or marketing experiences in their CVs.
Finally, EPF should make it possible for parents with more than RM100,000 to withdraw 20% of the amount to help their children pay off some of the amount borrowed from PTPTN. Much of the funds can then be replenished immediately while waiting for the five-year grace period for the student borrowers to find their footing in their careers.
As a citizen, I would not take “no” as an answer from the EPF because we have seen questionable use of our contributions.
If EPF gives us a song and dance story about the future of the members in their old age, the answer is simply that our children need help now, and not later.
In some European countries, workers who are laid off are supported by the government until they can get back on their feet again.
Here in Malaysia the rule is helping politicians and Felda workers with money from the taxpayers.
My suggestion may not qualify as rocket science but it is doable within a short period of time.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.