Recently, the National Students Loan Trust (NSLT) opened its online portal for qualified students to apply for financial support to enable them to complete their programmes of study in the various tertiary institutions in the country.
This surely is good news to needy students who otherwise would have found it very difficult to meet their financial obligations to their respective institutions.
The Daily Graphic is excited that this will ultimately resolve some of the nagging issues of funding tertiary education in the country.
Truth be told, without financial support such as the loan, most students would not be able to pursue tertiary education, while some of those who had already enrolled could cut short their education.
We are, however, worried about the timing of the opening of the portal for the students to apply, especially when all tertiary institutions require that students pay at least 50 per cent of their tuition fee before the commencement of the academic year.
We remember the NSLT announcing that candidates preparing to write the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) could start applying for the loan such that immediately the academic year began, the loan would be made available.
So, what happened and why is the NSLT now calling for applications when the academic year has begun in earnest?
The Chief Executive Officer of the Students Loan Trust Fund, Nana Agyei Yeboah, announced this at Jachie in the Ashanti Region during a coronation ceremony in honour of the Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, by the chiefs and people of the Bosomtwe District in September last year.
Does it mean that the CEO of the fund just made the public pronouncement for the fun of it and went back to sleep until now?
What this means is that those students who intended relying on the loan would end up missing out because they might not be able to raise the initial 50 per cent of the fees.
Public officials need not be reminded that their official pronouncements carry a lot of weight and therefore they must carry through their pronouncements.
The Daily Graphic believes that it is about time authorities were held accountable and it is therefore the duty of every citizen to hold the feet of duty bearers to the fire to ensure that they don't make public declarations and go back to sleep.
The essence of the fund, established in December 2005 under the Trustee Incorporation Act 1962, Act 820, which replaced the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), is what most students rely on for funds to carry on with their education at the tertiary level.
So, since the 2006/2007 academic year and after the passage of Act 820, SSNIT 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.
However, until 2022, a major challenge for most students was how to secure guarantors to enable them to access the loan. In fact, many students could not access the loan because of the guarantor factor.
It was, therefore, heartwarming when the government, in June 2022, rolled out the ‘No Guarantor Students Loan Policy’ to make it easier for students in tertiary institutions to access loans to support their education.
The policy, launched by Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, took immediate effect.
To ensure that beneficiaries received their funds without many challenges, they are required to have E-zwich cards, smart cards issued by the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement System Limited (GhIPSS), for easy transfer, as well as their Ghana cards.
Currently, there are 32,744 beneficiaries in 110 tertiary institutions across the country on the fund and it is expected that more than 70,000 new applicants will be accessing the fund for the 2023/2024 academic year.
Last year, for instance, the fund disbursed about GH¢64,650,000 in loans to 32,744 students.
According to the fund, it is expected that more than 70,000 new applicants will access the loan for the 2023/2024 academic year.
The Daily Graphic believes that the fund is a great intervention that comes handy for needy students and therefore wish to encourage students with financial challenges to take advantage of it to enable them to pursue their dreams.
Last academic year, all of us were witnesses to the unfortunate development at the KNUST, where some students almost deferred their programmes because of their inability to pay their tuition fees.
Irrespective of what might have happened in respect of those students, it is a fact that the NSLT is a bridge that enables students with financial challenges to access tertiary education and for that matter, its sustainability is crucial for the building of the needed human capital for their overall development.
After all, education, it is said, is a leveller and so let all those who desire to attain tertiary education benefit from it to build the needed human capital for the country.