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Analysis: Clearing The Air About TELS Scheme

We have had many political parties speaking about the Tertiary Education Loan Scheme as a burden on young graduates. SODELPA has led the charge and parties such as National Federation
02 Nov 2018 14:07
Analysis: Clearing The Air About TELS Scheme

We have had many political parties speaking about the Tertiary Education Loan Scheme as a burden on young graduates.

SODELPA has led the charge and parties such as National Federation Party has had candidates saying that it is a scheme which has favoured the rich.

Here are some facts about the scheme commonly called TELS.

From 2014 to date 31,551 students have benefitted from this new scheme. Today, we have 22,268 students who are currently studying at tertiary level and using TELS to pay their way through.

These are 31,551 students who may not have been able to access university education because they were not able to afford it. Some may have had their parents pay for it from their Fiji National Provident Fund but not all would have had that opportunity either.

Many would not have been able to use their parent’s FNPF because that money would have been used in buying a property earlier or in many cases, the parents’ would not have sufficient funds in their FNPF to pay for their child’s education. TELS provided a real opportunity for all these students to get a tertiary qualification. Many would not have been able to afford this opportunity.

Is TELS a burden?

No. Without TELS, tens of thousands of our youth would not have been able to get a university qualification. No one is forced to study on TELS. Where parents can afford to fund their children’s education, they can do so.

But, there are tens of thousands of young Fijians who do not have any other option. This is for them.

Consider this scenario: You can either decide that after Year 13, you will work as an unskilled worker and earn a fraction of what people with a qualification such as a degree earns and try to save money to study further or study and get a qualification and go on to earn a decent salary.

How can it be a burden when you will earn a lot more with your degree?

Removing TELS:

Removing TELS will mean snatching the opportunities from young Fijians to access tertiary education.

SODELPA wants to pay off the loans of those who are currently on TELS and do away with the scheme. They want to introduce scholarships where your race will decide whether you get a chance to further your studies and not necessarily the marks you received in your external exams.

What about those who may have received 220 out of 400 in Fiji Seventh Form Certificate Examination? They will not qualify for any scholarship and because they do not have the funds to go ahead and study, what do they do? Remain an unskilled worker till they are able to save up to study further? How is this fair?

Will it move from race down to provinces as well?

Accelerated repayments:

Government has even come up with a policy which allows people to get discounts on their debt.

How does this work:

If after you complete your education you owe $20,000 or less and within two years you pay half your loan, government will pay off the other 50 per cent.

If you take two to four years, you pay only 75 per cent and government pays the remaining 25 per cent. If you take four to six years to pay, you pay 90 per cent of the loan and government pays the other 10 per cent.

If you owe $20,000 to $49,999, you pay 50 per cent of the debt in less than three years and government pays the other 50 per cent. If you take three to six years to repay your loan, you pay 75 per cent and Government pays the remaining 25 per cent. If you take six to eight years to repay, you only repay 90 per cent and the rest is paid off by government.

If you owe $50,000 to $99,999 and you are willing to pay off half of it within four years, Government pays the other half of it. If you take four to eight years, you pay 75 per cent of your loan and government pays the other 25 per cent. If you take eight to 10 years to pay off your loan, you pay 90 per cent and government pays 10 per cent.

Removing TELS with the intension of reintroducing race-based scholarships will be detrimental to the development of human capital in this country.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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