My former senior colleague, Mr. Yeap Boo Yam, formerly the Chief Editor of the online news portal, theantdaily.com had kindly invited me to contribute one article to the relatively new publication, The Selangor Journal recently.
Mainstream press missed the forest for the tree
The topic of my article was a commentary on the performance of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) where I noted this was glaringly missing from all mainstream reports when figures on PTPTN were released. Everyone seemed to be fixated by the magic 410,500 bad debtors who never repaid a single sen! No one cared to notice the tremendous difference that the stringent (or more like “industry standard practice”) debt recovery efforts coupled with the barring of bad debtors leaving the country had on the debt collection figures.
As a student of higher education management, I started to collect historical data on PTPTN’s performance and was able to pull these out to compare PTPTN’s performance for the last 11 months. The funny thing is, why PTPTN could not publish a report card regularly and why do we have this seemingly odd “11 months” data rather than a yearly figurs to make comparison more valid?
PTPTN’s fund is for local studies only
Lately, there has been some talk of, in view of PTPTN’s greater recovery of debts, to consider giving loans to Malaysians for overseas studies. In my humble opinion, this is beyond the scope and duties assigned to PTPTN. PTPTN’s main role is to make sure that the playing field, as far as access to higher education is concern is made as level as possible for all eligible Malaysians. PTPTN’s main mission is therefore to ensure that qualified student should not be kept out of universities or colleges because he/she comes from an underprivileged background. We have collectively 500 plus colleges and universities (both private and public) providing academic diploma, degree and higher level studies where most, especially those in the private sector are chasing after students.
College “seats” are not being filled up. Partly this is due to a cut back in PTPTN funding in November 2014, especially severe for the private sector. I feel that the priority is to maximize PTPTN’s pool of funds for local tertiary studies where the cost of degree studies is a fraction of what you can buy overseas (principally in the West). Anyone aspiring to study overseas should be free to do so but at his/her own financing. PTPTN, I feel should be reserved for students who are enrolled in local institutions of higher learning ONLY! One needs not go overseas for a degree if one does not have the financial means to do so since there are plenty of local alternatives, many are just as good academically as their overseas counterparts.
Putting my money where my mouth is
My wife and I practiced what we “preached”, we paid for our son, Leland’s entire 3 years of studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln using our own savings. Leland found work on campus to help pay for some of his expenses to help to lessen our burden. If for whatever reasons that we were not able to fund this, our son could have had the option of remaining at SEGi University to complete his Bachelor degree, after all, our son was awarded a full tuition-fees waiver as a scholar of SEGi University in 2013. The fact that we “broke the bank” in so doing (the US$ went from US$1=RM3.20 to touch US$4.50 at its peak during our son’s studies, adding 40% to the total cost) was a consequence that we had to accept and had to bear in order for our son to experience living and learning in the USA. We are still “nursing” a “sizable” bank overdraft and we still owe my elder sister for the US$9,000 that she loaned us! That is the price we had chosen to pay (and the kind help we received from our sibling). We would never expect PTPTN to help us in any way at all.
The Selangor Journal – a ‘hot’ item!
It seems that The Selangor Journal is an hot item at the various distribution points and I could not get hold of a copy till Mr. Yeap gave me one today! A photograph of my article is provided below.