The Students Loan Trust Fund (SLTF) was established in December 2005 under the Trustee Incorporation Act 1962, Act 820. Prior to that, students relied on the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) for funds to carry on with their education at the tertiary level.
Since the 2006/2007 academic year and after the passage of Act 820, SSNIT has relinquished this responsibility to the SLTF, which dedicates itself solely to the issue of providing funds in the form of loans for students to support their education.
The SLTF, over the weekend, said its projections were that it would cost the government at least GH¢189 million to provide funds for the about 50,000 students who were likely to apply for loans in the 2020/2021 academic year.
The estimated student population represents 10 per cent of the annual tertiary enrolment, which is expected to hit 145,000 in the 2020/2021 academic year, and continuing students.
The fund, according to its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Nana Kwaku Agyei Yeboah, expected a huge increase in applications for financial assistance when the first batch of free SHS students graduates in 2020.
According to its projections, if the number of students that usually apply for the loans moves to 15 per cent, GH¢284 million would be needed, and if it increases to 20 per cent, then GH¢378 million would be the budget.
These figures are in addition to 27,000 continuing students who are receiving loans.
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According to Nana Yeboah, the fund currently requires GH¢80 million annually to meet its obligations to students who depend on it to cushion themselves financially.
The Daily Graphic, first of all, commends the SLTF for the projections it has come up with. Development thrives on information and for state institutions to estimate, analyse and be forthcoming with information and data on their activities is enamouring, indeed!
The projections, however, bring to mind all the arguments and counter-arguments on the sustainability of the free SHS policy. It seems the sustainability question has come up again with the ability of the SLTF to give loans to the projected 145,000 new entrants from SHS and also the continuing students.
The consistency of the GETFund and other statutory sources has to be looked at critically by the government as we approach the 2020/2021 academic year.
The rate of repayment of loans by students is also a challenge, resulting in gaps in the funds available to the SLTF to be given to students. Graduating students are also unable to land job opportunities to enable them to repay the loans as required.
The Daily Graphic believes that that needs the intervention of the government to ensure that the promised jobs for Ghanaians are made available.
Benevolent individuals and organisations should not be left out in our bid to ensure that the SLTF is sustainable. Act 820 permits contributions from Corporate Ghana and individuals.
Already, the Databank Foundation and the SLTF are collaborating for 20 SHS students to benefit from the Databank Scholars Programme in the 2019/2020 academic year.
With that, students in deprived communities in the Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Savannah and North East regions who will gain admission to accredited tertiary institutions to pursue accredited programmes but are unable to raise the initial admission fees required to secure their places are supported fully for the duration of their courses.
Other organisations must step in to innovatively work with the SLTF to get graduating students to repay their loans after their education.
The Daily Graphic hopes that the government, institutions, individuals and Corporate Ghana will be up to the task and ensure that generations, apart from benefiting from free SHS education, are not denied access to higher education.
Certainly, no child deserves to be left beneath the educational ladder for want of financial support!