General News of Thursday, 12 September 2019
More than 55,000 people owe the Students Loan Trust Fund (SLTF) GH¢75 million, representing default in the repayment of the loans students took to cushion them while in school.
Out of the number, about 35,000 have made some form of payment, leaving more than 20,000 who have not paid anything at all, after the two-year grace period for repayment elapsed.
The debt standing in the names of those who have not paid anything at all stands at GH¢35 million.
With some of the debts dating as far back as 2012 from the first batch of beneficiaries who took the loan in 2006, the fund managers have warned the borrowers that they will begin to publish the names and pictures of the defaulters in the national dailies in the coming weeks.
The measure, according to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the fund, Nana Kwaku Agyei Yeboah, was to improve inflow into the fund to satisfy the needs of the thousands of applicants expected this academic year.
He told the Daily Graphic that the recovery rate of the fund was currently 65 per cent.
Data from the fund indicated that 35 per cent (about 7,000) of borrowers who had not paid anything to the fund said they were unemployed.
However, Mr Yeboah said “the payment of the loan is not contingent on being employed. Even for those who are not working, the amount used in buying airtime alone could be saved to defray part of the loan”.
The fund has projected that it will cost about GH¢189 million to provide loans for the almost 50,000 tertiary students who are likely to apply for loans in the 2020/2021 academic year.
The estimated number of applicants represents 10 per cent of the annual tertiary enrolment, which is expected to hit 145,000 in the 2020/2021 academic year.
Those figures, Mr Yeboah said, made it necessary for borrowers to fulfil their obligation to the fund to ensure its sustainability, as it anticipated a rise in new applicants, especially brilliant, needy students, from next year.
As part of its recovery plan, the fund managers recently visited the United States to engage Ghanaians in the Diaspora who had taken loans or guaranteed for students to make good their promise, while calling for voluntary contributions from them.
Mr Yeboah said the trip took the team to the Ghana Mission in New York, the Ghana Embassy in Washington, DC, as well as engagements with the Ghanaian community in churches, at African markets and on community radio stations, including the Sankofa, Unity, Highlife and Golden FM stations.
He said the Ghana Mission, for instance, bought into the idea and expressed interest in supporting the fund’s awareness creation on the need to pay back the loans on its agenda during townhall meetings.
The mission would also engage Ghanaians who visited its offices for passport renewal and application and other documents on the issue.
Mr Yeboah said it was a long-term strategy of the fund to wean itself from government support, but that could not be achieved next year, as its intermediate plan was to increase recovery and use its internally generated funds.
“We are talking to the Ministry of Finance, the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) and others for the timely release of funds into the fund. If we get the funds allocated to us released on time, it will minimise the stress. We can plan ahead and deal with the figures.
The Senior Operations Manager in charge of the Repayments and Recovery Unit, Mr Justice Sarkodie, said although there was no database on those who took the loan and decided to relocate to the United States, through the campaign, a number of people showed up, indicating that they had taken the loan or guaranteed for some people.
“We met people who came out to ask questions about guaranteeing for people, and how they could get them to pay. We showed them how to push the borrowers to pay because if they don’t, the consequence will be on them,” he explained.
Engagement with employers
The Students Loan Trust Fund Act 2011, Act 820, enjoins employers to ascertain from employees who are beneficiaries of student loans about their status and report those who have not fully repaid their loans to the fund.
Employers are further mandated to withhold monthly instalments from the salaries of employees and remit same to the fund within 15 days after deduction.
Mr Sarkodie said the fund had flexible payment terms which included debtors paying as little as GH¢50 a month, adding that the fund had introduced payment platforms such as myghpay.com, mobile money, in addition to paying at partner banks, including the GCB Bank, the National Investment Bank, Ecobank, GT Bank and zonal offices of the trust in major tertiary institutions.