More than 32,000 continuing students who applied for students loans to cushion them financially for the 2018/2019 academic year are yet to receive their money from the Students Loan Trust Fund (SLTF), three months into the academic year.
A number of students of the Accra Technical University and the University of Ghana who spoke to the Daily Graphic on condition of anonymity said they had been waiting for the money to meet some of their needs but they were yet to receive it.
In the face of the challenges, the SLTF is yet to accept new applications from students.
“I was hoping to spend the money on my project work. The cost of printing the project work for the supervisor alone is intimidating. But almost a month to the end of the semester, it doesn’t look like it is coming soon. I have contacted the SLTF a number of times but they only give assurances,” a Level 400 student of the University of Ghana said.
Another student of the same university told the Daily Graphic that he had planned to use the money to buy a laptop for his research work, as his course of study demanded much research.
For a student of the Accra Technical University, the money was meant to pay her private hostel fees, but since it was yet to come, the owner of the place was already harassing her.
“I don’t have peace of mind because the landlord wants his money, but I have not heard anything from the SLTF. In the past, latest by the second month you have your money,” she said.
SLTF acknowledges delay
A statement issued by Mr George Ferguson Laing, the Senior Public Relations Manager of the SLTF, acknowledged that there had been a delay in the disbursement of loans for the 2018/2019 academic year but gave an assurance that the money would be disbursed by the end of November.
“We apologise to beneficiaries of the loan for the inconvenience caused by the delay. We recognise that tens of thousands of students rely on the loan for various uses, including the payment of fees and accommodation, the purchase of books, as well as general living expenses. We are working assiduously to restore the situation to normalcy,” it said.
Stress on fund
The statement said at the beginning of the 2017/2018 academic year, the loan amount was increased by 50 per cent, which resulted in a surge in applications, putting a strain on the fund.
The SLTF increased the amount given each student as loan every academic year to a minimum of GH¢2,000 and a maximum GH¢3,000, beginning last academic year.
In 2016, the minimum amount was increased from GH¢650 to GH¢1,000 and the maximum from GH¢1,600 to GH¢2,000.
The loan is meant to defray personal expenses, including fees, the cost of boarding, lodging, books and equipment, and for other purposes that may be necessary for borrowers’ courses of study.
The amount was adjusted to meet the increase in fees by tertiary institutions.
“We have engaged with the relevant stakeholders, including the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance and the GETFund to make financing available to pay students by the end of November.
“We have been communicating with the student leadership and take this opportunity to appeal to the wider student body to bear with us while we resolve the issue.
“The SLTF takes its mandate of providing timely financial assistance for students who need it seriously and would like to assure the public that this situation is a temporary one which is being addressed with the long-term view in mind,” it said.
According to its data, the SLTF received an average of 15,000 new borrowers in the 2014/2015, 2016/2016 and 2016/2017 academic years.
In September last year, the trust recovered at least 60 per cent of the loans it disbursed to students.
In June 2016, the SLTF published the names of 31,223 people who had collected loans to the tune of GH¢78 million and had defaulted in payment.
Some of the names published on its website were said to have defaulted for close to 10 years.
The trust is threatening to publish those names in the dailies if the defaulters fail or refuse to make payments.