Archive for the ‘Scholarships and Loans’ Category

Education Ministry: 376k PTPTN borrowers have yet to make a single repayment.

Thursday, October 31st, 2019
KUALA LUMPUR: Some 375,925 borrowers of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) have never made a single repayment to the body, says the Education Ministry.

Its deputy minister Teo Nie Ching said the government had yet to decide whether to reintroduce the travel ban previously imposed on loan defaulters to boost repayment.

“A travel ban was one of the proposals given during the public consultation on (PTPTN’s) new mechanism.

“However, it has yet to be finalised by the Cabinet, whether to reintroduce the travel ban,” she said.

This was in reply to supplementary questions by Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin (PH-Masjid Tanah), who asked about the possibility of reintroducing travel bans on loan defaulters, and to Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff (PAS-Rantau Panjang) on the number of those who had yet to make any repayment.

Teo said PTPTN spent an average of between RM3.7bil to RM4.3bil each year to provide loans to some 180,000 new borrowers and 420,000 existing ones.

“As of Sept, this year, PTPTN has approved RM72.1bil worth of loans to 3.14 million borrowers, of which, RM36.5bil was allocated for students in the public higher education institutes and RM35.5bil for those in the private higher learning bodies.

“From the total, RM57.7bil has been dispersed to borrowers,” she said.

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Saving for a better future

Sunday, October 20th, 2019

Mastura, pictured holding up PTPTN’s red money savings container, said that PTPTN will be organising two to three outreach programmes in stages. – NORAFIFI EHSAN/The Star

THE National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) is encouraging more state governments and businesses to give the National Education Savings Scheme (SSPN) to newborns, in order to encourage new parents to invest in their children’s future tertiary education.

Since 2010, only four state governments and a handful of private companies have stepped forward to give monetary contributions to the education savings plans of newly born babies.

The states, including Kedah, Perak, Terengganu and Melaka, have been giving out sums between RM20 and RM500 for every newborn, according to PTPTN (policy and operation) deputy chief executive Mastura Mohd Khalid.

“I call on more state governments and corporations to join in to encourage new parents to start early savings for their children’s future studies at higher learning institutions. It is also something achievable and a good investment for the benefit of the younger generation and nation-building, ” she told StarEdu in an interview.

The gift, she added, could also be implemented as part of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative by the organisations.

Moreover, as children tend to learn by example, encouraging healthy saving habits among parents can also help inculcate financial literacy and planning skills in the next generation, especially if learnt during their formative years.

The SSPN could also be the best plan to avoid dependency on a loan for higher education, Mastura advised.

There are currently 10mil potential Malaysian depositors aged between a day to 19 years, meaning that parents are able to apply for the savings scheme on their behalf.

Reaching the grassroots

On this note, PTPTN recently conducted its Jelajah SSPN programme nationwide to promote the opening of new SSPN accounts, especially among the underprivileged in the remote areas.

She shared that it was not easy for PTPTN to create awareness on the scheme in Sabah and Sarawak due to the lack of communication facility including Internet access in certain areas.

The Jelajah SSPN programme registered 11,033 new accounts and deposits amounting to RM1,786,445 during the August to September period.

Mastura said, “As at Aug 31, this year, 315,976 new accounts and deposits amounting to RM530.5mil have been collected.

“We target to get 500,000 new account holders and deposits collection of RM1bil this year. We are positive of achieving our target.”

Moreover, response from underprivileged groups has been encouraging, as a large number were previously unaware of the available SSPN packages for their children’s education.

“We opened accounts worth RM100 each for their benefit during this period, ” she said, adding that more than RM800,000 was spent for the savings of new depositors as part of their CSR initiative.

The programme has proven worthwhile as it has been an ‘eye opener’ for many in the underprivileged communities to understand the importance of such savings for their children’s education and future, she pointed out.

Focusing on impactWhile results have been positive thus far, PTPTN will be further intensifying its efforts to get closer to their target audience and create more awareness on the advantages of early SSPN savings.

Mastura revealed that PTPTN is be organising two to three programmes in stages. This is in addition to continuing its participation in various activities at schools and shopping malls, as well as partnering other parties in carnivals to attract younger parents to opt for SSPN.

Earlier this month, it held a three-day Minggu Menabung SSPN 2019 at Aeon Mall in Shah Alam from Oct 4 to 6.

She said, “For instance, we meet the parents at the shopping malls during the weekends when they go out to buy groceries and watch movies and attract them to choose SSPN, ” she said.

PTPTN also organises various contests such as drawing, colouring and puzzle solving activities, mini musicals and talent competitions, alongside introducing special appearances from popular children’s cartoon characters such as Didi and Friends to attract children and convince more parents to be depositors and invest for the future.

“For instance, to participate in the puzzle solving activities, they have to save at least RM20 and they can do regular additional deposits later, ” she added.

Under the SSPN-i scheme, the depositor has to save a minimum of RM20, while SSPN-i Plus provides six savings packages ranging from RM30 to RM500 per month. In return, depositors enjoy benefits including tax relief, takaful protection.

In urging more people to save with SSPN, Mastura noted that they could win attractive cash prizes during the second series of two prize draws, namely Cabutan 15 Tahun SSPN-i and Cabutan Wow! SSPN-i Plus.

She explained, “We introduced these prize draws to be competitive and to be at par with other financial institutions in attracting new depositors.”

PTPTN has allocated RM1.1mil to reward 1,726 depositors in its prize draws. The second series, which is for savings deposited during the promotional period between September and October this year, will see five depositors winning RM15,151.15 each for the Cabutan 15 Tahun SSPN-i and 15 depositors winning RM3,000 each under the Cabutan Wow! SSPN-i Plus.

From 2004 until end-August 2019, PTPTN registered 4.2 mil SSPN accounts with RM5bil total deposits.By M.MAGESWARI


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Start saving from an early age

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

(Second and third left) Mastura, Wan Saiful, PTPTN management board member Tan Sri Sulaiman Mahbob (fourth right) together with the winners of the lucky draws Azizah Zakaria (left), Aisyah Hasyila (centre), Hasimazatul Azwita Hasim (third right) and Kartini (right) at the launch of the national level SSPN Saving Week 2019. RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

THERE is a free matching grant of up to RM10,000 for those in the B40 group to help them save for their tertiary education.

The catch is, they need to have a National Education Savings Scheme (SSPN) account.

National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan says: “The Government had allocated RM1bil in the form of a matching grant as a special incentive for them (B40) to save for the purpose of securing their children’s higher education.”

This matching grant was originally announced by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Budget 2003 during his first tenure as prime minister, he says during the launch of the National Savings Week 2019 last week.

He says PTPTN is reviving the incentive because it will greatly help and benefit those from the low-income bracket.

“This is also one of the Government’s efforts to ensure that this group is prepared to bear the costs of higher education, ” he says.

This, he adds, is in line with the prime minister’s vision of shared prosperity and that those who do not earn much should not be forgotten.

“People often think that saving is only for those who “have”

the money or ask how to save if their income is small, ” Wan Saiful says.

This is why he believes the B40 group should grab this chance and open an SSPN-i account to enjoy the matching grant.

The grant will be given to those with a monthly income below RM4,000, there has been consistent deposits into the account for at least 10 years and the student must have been accepted into a higher learning institution.

Wan Saiful says deposits can be as low as RM20 a month.

The SSPN, a savings plan to encourage parents to save for their children’s higher education, was created by PTPTN in 2004.

“We must erase the view from the minds of the public because PTPTN no longer wants to be seen solely as a lending entity.

“Instead, it should be seen as an entity that provides a scheme for saving for higher education, ” says PTPTN deputy chief executive (policy and operations) Mastura Mohd Khalid.

She says that there is a report showing that 75% of Malaysians do not even have RM1,000 kept aside in case of an emergency.

She adds that she is aware that the current economic situation is proving to be a hurdle to encourage people to save for the future.

So, she says that increasing awareness among parents on the importance of saving and financial planning by making specific investments for higher education has to happen.

This is where the SSPN product can help because it can encourage the rakyat to make specific investments for higher education, she adds.

This year, Mastura says, PTPTN aims to have around 500,000 new SSPN accounts opened with a total savings of around RM1bil.

As of Aug 31 this year, around 4.2 million SSPN accounts have been opened with deposits amounting to RM5.1bil.

Aside from free takaful coverage, SSPN-i savings scheme entitles depositors to tax exemption of up to RM8,000 per annum and competitive dividends.

The SSPN-i Plus is an improvised version of the SSPN-i, a government-guaranteed savings scheme which provides affordable and comprehensive takaful coverage to depositors from as low as RM30 per month and with more benefits added.

Through SSPN-i Plus, depositors are eligible to enjoy a tax exemption of up to RM15,000 per annum (RM8,000 in SSPN-i and RM7,000 in takaful contribution) for civil servants under the pension scheme, takaful protection of up to RM1mil in the case of death or permanent disability, funeral expenses, attractive dividend, and eligibility for PTPTN loan for tertiary education, but not including the matching grant incentive scheme that SSPN-i depositors will enjoy.

In conjunction with SSPN-i’s 15th anniversary, PTPTN is holding three draws for 15 lucky winners.

There will be five winners for three draws and each will walk away with RM15,151,15.

The first winner has already been chosen and the money

went to Aisyah Hasyila Jahidin, 43.

The lecturer from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Faculty of Pharmacy, says she thought it was a scam when she got the call informing her that she had won.

“I was not expecting this at all and immediately checked PTPTN’s website, ” she says, adding that she only realised it was real once she saw the website.

Aisyah Hasyila says she opened the savings accounts for her three children so that they would not have to struggle later when it comes time for them to pursue their tertiary studies.

She adds that she has opened both SSPN-i and SSPN-i Plus for her two boys and one girl.

“I feel it is important for us to save for our children’s future, ” she says, adding that she deposits RM100 into each account every month.

“These plans are a really good choice to save money for the future, ” says Aisyah Hasyila.

Kartini Jasni, 32, can thank her lucky stars because she had begun saving in the SSPN-i Plus account for only three months.

Yet, she was one of the winners of the WOW! SSPN-i Plus Draw.

The veterinary doctor says she found out about the savings plan from PTPTN through social media.

“I was drawn to the takaful coverage that they offer when I save in the SSPN-i Plus account, ” she adds.

The mother of one says she didn’t expect to win RM3,000 in the draw.

On another matter, Mastura says the National Savings Week was held in conjunction with World Savings Day that is happening on Oct 31.

Locally, the three-day programme was held consecutively in 13 locations across Malaysia.

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Employers who pay back their workers’ PTPTN loans get tax exemption this year.

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Now, employers can pay back as part of their initiative, ’ said Abdul Ghaffar.

EMPLOYERS who help to pay back their workers’ outstanding loans from the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) will enjoy a tax exemption this year.

This tax benefit was announced by the Government last November under Budget 2019.

“We want to reach out to employers from the private sectors such as banking, telecommunications and multimedia to help by paying their employees’ PTPTN loans as part of their corporate social responsibility.

“It will be a win-win situation for both parties. PTPTN offered loans to students to produce the best human capital for the job market.

“Now, employers can pay back as part of their initiative, ” said PTPTN public relations and event management senior general manager Abdul Ghaffar Yusop at Menara PTPTN in Kuala Lumpur.

“We also want to turn their (employers’) heart and mind towards their staff’s well-being. They have to consider their employees as valuable assets who can contribute to the development of their industries, ” he added.

Abdul Ghaffar said workers whose loans have been paid up by their employer would be more productive, motivated and loyal to their company.

Employers can settle the loan in full or pay in monthly installments, till Dec 31 this year. They are prohibited from placing their workers on an employment bond as a condition for paying off their loan.

Employers also cannot make deductions from employees’ wages in relation to the company settling their PTPTN loans. Errant employers can face action from the Inland Revenue Board.

Abdul Ghaffar clarified that if the PTPTN borrower is self-employed or runs his own business, he will not be eligible for this tax exemption.

“He is also not eligible if he pays up the loans of employees who happen to be his siblings, spouse, children or grandchildren. This is to avoid manipulation, ” he said.

There is no minimum or maximum amount of loan payment for employers to enjoy the tax exemption. “If the employer pays up a RM50,000 loan, he is qualified for a RM50,000 tax exemption, ” he said.

Abdul Ghaffar said employers could offer PTPTN loan repayment as incentives to their staff.

“Some employers provide annual bonus or holiday packages to show their appreciation for their employees.

“Now they can offer to pay their employees’ PTPTN loans and enjoy the tax exemption.”

Hii settled PTPTN loans for two of his project engineers.Hii settled PTPTN loans for two of his project engineers.

He urged corporate bodies, multinational corporations and government-linked companies to help employees pay back their staff’s PTPTN loan.

Vector Infotech Sdn Bhd managing director Hii Ding Sin, who supports the employer loan repayment plan, said his network solutions-based company has helped its two project engineers with their PTPTN loans.

“We paid about RM37,000 in full (loan) settlement for a project engineer in June this year. As for the other project engineer, we paid for him more than RM26,000 in August. This is incentive for them to increase productivity while working with us, ” he said.

Hii shared that the management would be paying for more employees’ PTPTN loans in monthly instalments, as part of the company’s commitment to help society and enable more people to pursue education.

“I came from a poor family, and it is important to support PTPTN’s contributions to help produce more competent workers from university level, ” Hii added.

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DPM: Unwise to impose travel ban on PTPTN defaulters.

Monday, May 20th, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail says restricting overseas travel against borrowers who fail to repay loans from the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) is not appropriate and should be reviewed.

She said the government had yet to make any decision on the matter and the proposed restriction should be reviewed.

“We haven’t made any decision. When did we discuss it? PTPTN has provided space and opportunities for the students to pursue higher studies but there are a handful who did not service their PTPTN study loans (after completing their studies).

“So rolling money is tough for PTPTN but to impose travel restrictions is not a wise thing to do. It needs to be reviewed,” she said.

PTPTN chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan was reported earlier to have said that re-imposing the travel ban on errant borrowers was among the ideas received during PTPTN’s ongoing public engagement sessions.

Meanwhile, in JERLUN, Wan Saiful urged the public to channel feedback to PTPTN via the right channel, the Kertas Konsultasi Rakyat (KKR) which is provided on its official website.

Speaking to reporters after a PTPTN Ramadan programme, he said PTPTN could only act on feedback provided via that platform and not from social media.


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RM50 million State Govt scholarship open for application

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Yusof (centre) announces details of the State Government scholarship while Jenifer (right) and others look on.

KOTA KINABALU: Application for State Government scholarship is open today (March 26) for eligible students from Sabah and Labuan.

Minister of Education and Innovation Datuk Dr Yusof B. Yacob said the State Government has allocated about RM50 million to fund existing scholarship recipients and new applicants.

He said the State Government would be offering scholarship for 12 diploma courses and 34 undergraduate degree courses in public higher learning institutions (IPTA) and private higher learning institutions (IPTS).

“Students can apply for courses they desire but my advice is to pursue the courses listed by the State Government because these are the courses that meet the industry demand,” he said at a press conference here yesterday.

Dr Yusof said students could apply for the scholarship online at before the deadline on April 25, 2019. Students could also check the status of their application online.

The diploma courses listed include actuarial science, surveying, engineering, health and livestock farming, property management, accounting, agriculture, pure science, architecture and information technology.

Diploma scholarship applicants must pass the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) with at least 7As.

Meanwhile, the undergraduate or first degree courses that are offered scholarship include actuarial science, aquaculture, economy, pharmacy, engineering, entrepreneurship, communication, surveying, accounting, dentistry, forestry, fishery, agriculture, medicine, veterinary, psychology, environmental science, music, tourism and hospitality, education, Islamic studies, marine biological science, biotechnology, computer science, among others.

Scholarship applicants for first degree courses must pass Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) with at least a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 3.33; diploma with CGPA 3.50; obtain at least Jayyid in Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM) or pass matriculation or foundation programmes with CGPA 3.50.

Applicants for medicine, dentistry and pharmacy courses must obtain at least a CGPA of 3.8 for STPM, diploma or matriculation.

The age limit for diploma and undergraduate degree scholarship is not more than 20 and 25 years old respectively.

Dr Yusof said there was no fixed quota for the scholarship but the State Government would seek to sponsor students who have scored outstanding results in SPM and STPM.

“Based on our records, there are 148 students who scored 10As in SPM and 61 students who obtained 4As in STPM in Sabah.”

He said students who have obtained an offer letter from university could apply for the scholarship as well.

“For those who have not, we can assist them in enrolling into higher learning institutions.

“This is to prevent students from getting into unaccredited institutions, or select courses that are irrelevant to industry demand.”

He said there have been mistakes made in the past where students who were sponsored attended universities that were not even recognized, or pursued courses that were not relevant to industry needs.

As such, he advised students to change their mindset and opt for courses recommended that would meet needs of the industry, thereby help to develop the State.

In addition, Dr Yusof said the State Government has set aside 250 slots for poor students, or about 10 students from each district, to pursue higher education in IPTA or IPTS.

“The higher learning institutions must have Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with industry players so that these students would be employed upon graduation.

“Our aim to bring them out of poverty.”

He said the average sponsorship of RM20,000 for each poor student would pay for their tuition fees, living costs and accommodation.

Dr Yusof continued to say that his ministry would look into increasing the budget for scholarships so that more Sabahan students could enter IPTA or IPTS.

Nonetheless, he also encouraged students to look into scholarships offered by other sponsors as well, including Yayasan Sabah, Petronas, Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) and other foundations.

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Scholarship offer a positive step in poverty eradication.

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob

KOTA KINABALU: State Assembly Deputy Speaker Datuk George Ginibun has applauded the State Government’s efforts to eradicate poverty in Sabah.

“I want to offer my heartfelt thanks on behalf of the poor students in Sabah to our Education and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob for launching what would be a first good news for our poor young Sabahans in 2019.

“It is indeed a great piece of news and a small step forward by the Education and Innovation Ministry with the recent announcement to offer Sabah scholarships to 250 poor students to further their studies in vocational courses,” he opined.

“It’s just been a week into the New Year and we see another positive move by the Sabah State Government in an effort to reduce poverty in Sabah,” he said, adding that Infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Peter Anthony had said the State’s development, particularly in the rural areas, needs to be further increased to ensure the socio-economic gap between the urban and rural areas can be narrowed.

“This is because the State is still number one in terms of poverty rate and the highest in terms of joblessness in the country which is at 2.9 per cent and 5.5 percent respectively,” he pointed out.

According to him, the minister disclosed that the State Government aims to increase the present pace of development in the State with the assistance of the Federal Government.

“I’m sure the Sabah Government through certain ministries will continue to come up with more initiations to help reduce poverty in Sabah from now on. Sadly to say, poverty in Sabah is amongst one of the worse in Malaysia and there are simply not enough time and effort to eradicate poverty here.

“We faced a multidimensional situation when it comes to poverty in Sabah and single factor solution is only one step forward. Education is definitely one of the main culprits to tackle amongst the hard core poor in our rural areas,” said Ginibun who disclosed that he too had a hard time growing up as his family was poor.

The Deputy State Assembly Speaker pointed out that according to Ted K. Bradshaw, The Academic Senate of University of California, comprehensive development efforts for individuals, based on strategic efforts toward self-sufficiency through education is one form of reduction of poverty that is very effective for any country in the long term.

“I can totally relate to Ted K. Bradshaw studies as I have come from an extreme hard core poor situation when l was growing up and education surely must be one of the main contributing factors to bringing me to where I am today.

“I am extremely passionate in the topic of poverty in Sabah and I would sincerely offer my assistance in terms of advice, support and encouragement to any efforts to reduce poverty here,” explained Ginibun.

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Don’t just fix repayments

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018
Higher education institutions pitching their offerings at an education fair at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. FILE PIC

THE government’s strategy to reform student loans through the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) is now finally becoming clearer.

After much reflection, the emphasis is on improving the repayment rates from borrowers rather than reforming the system as a whole. As always, the weight of the problem will fall on the students.

The introduction of tiered repayments between two per cent and 15 per cent based on income of more than RM1,000 per month angered many people who argued that this is a breach of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) election manifesto to limit repayments to those earning more than RM4,000 per month.

On reflection, it may be too early to be so harsh. Perhaps the new policy is better viewed as a sensible mechanism for the government to stabilise the system and then raise the threshold from RM1,000 to RM4,000 before GE15

The real disappointment in the PTPTN reform announced in the 2019 Budget is that it fails to address the substantial structural issues underlying the use of PTPTN funds, particularly in private universities. Just fixing the repayments will not settle the PTPTN problem — we need to know how the universities are spending the billions in PTPTN funds that they receive each year.

Our research on private university finances, to be presented at a public lecture at Monash University today shows, shows that billions of ringgit are transferred out of the private universities each year.

Based on audited financial accounts from the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) for 75 out of 96 private universities, we estimated that in 2016 transfers out in the form of dividends, taxes, marketing and senior manager salaries amounted to around RM838 million. This is equivalent to 41 per cent of the PTPTN loans allocated to the institutions in our sample in that year.

From 2010-2016, we estimated that at least RM4.7 billion has been transferred out of the private higher education institutions (HEIs) in our sample. This is equivalent to 29 per cent of the PTPTN loans over the same period.

The biggest share of these transfers-out goes to pay the owners of the companies that run the private universities. Between 2010 and 2016, RM1.98 billion was transferred out of the private HEIs as dividends to owners. This is equivalent to nine per cent of the PTPTN loans transferred into the system.

Ironically, this means that students are borrowing large amounts of money to pay shareholders rather than to pay for their own education. In 2016, the amount of dividends paid was enough to retire 21 per cent of the PTPTN debt allocated to students at the private universities in our sample in that year.

Another drag on resources for the private universities is the government itself. SSM data shows that RM781 million in taxes was paid between 2010 and 2016. In another irony, to save money, PTPTN reduced the maximum loan for private students by 15 per cent in 2014 but this cost the government RM90 million in lost taxes due to the negative impact on private HEI profits.

Despite falling profits and an increasingly unstable financial environment for private universities, their senior managers are very well paid. Over the period 2010-2016 we estimated that RM672 million was paid to vice-chancellors and chief executives across the underperforming private higher education sector. This is despite worsening profits and rising financial instability.

The intense competition for students among private universities leads to high spending on marketing, advertising and recruitment agents. Our conservative estimate is that RM204 million per year or RM1.43 billion between 2010 and 2016 has been spent on marketing.

This is enough to build one new private university per year or to fund the income of three average-sized private universities for the same period. Actually, anecdotal evidence suggests that as much as RM700 million to RM800 million may be wasted on marketing, advertising and recruitment each year across the almost 100 private HEIs.

It goes without saying that all of this money lost to the system from dividends, taxes, marketing and salaries could be better spent on improving the financial stability of the universities and raising the quality of education for the students. It would also go some way to improving the pay and conditions of academics and staff.

The solutions must include a combination of efforts from the government and the private universities themselves. For the government, solving the tax problem is a simple matter of giving tax relief, on specific terms, to private universities that show they are investing profits back into their stakeholders.

Cutting marketing expenditure requires a mature collaboration between private universities to create a new centralised system for recruitment of students. This would cut the need for intense head-on competition and the high, wasted costs that this creates.

Sadly, I fear that we will wait a long time for this to happen if left to the universities themselves — so the government may have to lead on this as well.

Dealing with salaries requires that senior managers in private universities and their public counterparts for that matter, follow the example of listed companies and now even ministers in the government, and publish their pay and bonuses. This would help to ensure that they can be held to account by shareholders, students and staff alike.

By Geoffrey Williams.

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Budget 2019: PTPTN initiatives announced

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

PETALING JAYA: To ensure the sustainability of the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN), the government has announced several initiatives in Budget 2019.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said these include the option of payment through deductions of between 2% and 15% from the borrower’s salary, based on their monthly income rate.

This system will only be applicable to borrowers earning more than RM1,000 a month.

Additionally, a tax break will be given to companies that assist its staff to settle their loans by the year ending 2019, Lim said.

Individual income tax breaks for the National Education Saving Scheme will also be increased from RM6,000 to RM8,000.

Finally, the government has also announced that all remaining loans for borrowers aged above 60 and earning less than RM4,000 a month have been waived, benefiting 350 borrowers with a cost of RM4.2 million.

By Martin Vengadesan

PTPTN loan cut affects students intake

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

Liew (centre), flanked by Gabriel and Wong, with the rest of the combined delegation from ATI College and MICCI Sabah Branch.

KOTA KINABALU: Deputy Chief Minister cum Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Christina Liew will bring the issue of shortage of skilled manpower in the burgeoning tourism industry to the attention of State Government.

She gave the assurance during a meeting with officials from the Asian Tourism International (ATI) College and Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI) recently.

“Based on our estimation and accurately so, tourism is the third biggest revenue-earner for Sabah after palm oil and crude oil. For
this reason, the State Government and my ministry are really focusing on it. I am aware of the increasing demand for more trained personnel in the tourism sector, now that we are seeing an influx of tourists from China in particular.

“I would raise the college’s request for financial aid with the State Government. Apart from the PTPTN loans for students, we will try to seek sponsorship from Yayasan Sabah and big corporations if possible,” she said.

Briefing Liew on the financial woes facing ATI College, Executive Chairman Datuk Seri Wong Khen Thau urged the new Government to view it seriously.

“Lack of human capital development for the tourism industry is a serious issue. It is very alarming for Sabah. We (ATI College) provide crucial manpower for the tourism, culinary and F&B industries.

“However, the major slash on PTPTN loans from the Federal Government has affected our intake of students. We had appealed to the previous government but to no avail.

“Loans aside, private colleges in Sabah like ours have never enjoyed grants or allocations from the government unlike the independent
Chinese secondary schools and government-run university colleges, community colleges and polytechnic institutions,” he pointed out.

The minister concurred with Wong that the focus should also be on developing tourism awareness among the youths, especially those from the rural districts like Kota Marudu, Pitas and Keningau, among others, in the interest of human resource development and career prospects.

“Some 60 to 70 per cent of our ATI College students are from rural areas.

“They need help as the government loans are just sufficient to cover the tuition fees. The college has a capacity of 700 to 800, of whom
70 to 80 per cent apply for loans. For a two-and-a-half-year diploma course in culinary arts, the cost is about RM20,000 per student.

As the PTPTN loan has been slashed down to RM12,000, the college has to subsidise heavily to the tune of about RM8,000. We also provide free transport and accommodation to trainee students,” said the president of the Sabah Association of Private Institutions of Higher Learning.

Wong, who is also chairman of MICCI Sabah Branch, presented the following requests to Liew.

* Provision of a State Government scholarship for the Tourism,
Hospitality and Culinary Programme
* Provision of funding for government loans to enable more students to pursue education under the Tourism, Hospitalty and Culinary Progamme
* Assistance for poor rural students to pursue studies at the college
* Creating a “Tourism Lab” for all trainers, lecturers and other players in the industry to work together

With a five-star rating, ATI College has been in operation for 21 years. Wong said it is the only homegrown skill training institution
in Sabah offering tourism-related courses, and also trains potential tourist guides. These include Diploma in Diving & Resort Management, Diploma in Tourism Management, Diploma in Hotel Management, Diploma in Culinary Arts, Diploma in Pastry Arts and Certificate in Culinary Arts.

Based on a study, he said approximately 40,000 students graduate at SPM level each year but only 20,000 of them pursue further studies.

“What will happen to the other 20,000?” he asked.

In his briefing, Wong, who is also chairman of MICCI Sabah Branch, disclosed that there is 95 per cent employability of graduates within the tourism, culinary and F&B industries.

“The remaining five per cent either start their own business in the F&B industry or venture into other economic sectors,” he said.

According to him, ATI College graduates are much sought after by hotels at the operational and managerial levels, apart from travel

Wong, however, lamented that trainers in the tourism sector are “unsung heroes” as not much attention was paid to their grievances in the past.

“I hope the minister will look into this aspect. Trainers are contributing significantly to manpower development in Malaysia,” he

With full service airlines from China and the presence of different categories of tourists, Datuk John Lo, a member of the ATI Board of
Governors, said there is a pressing need for trained personnel to service high-end tourism.

“Tourism personnel are the determinant of success of our tourism and hospitality industry,” he said.

Noting the decline in student enrolment at ATI College, MICCI Sabah Branch vice-chairman Lee Swi Heng said this phenomenon had resulted in the shortage of skilled personnel in the tourism industry. “Most of the hotels are facing this problem marked by 30 to 40 unfilled vacancies. We are looking at 10 per cent drop in terms of manpower. Some of the hotels could be even worse. As more hotels are coming up, the level of service provided to guests will be adversely affected. In the long term, this could give rise to the issue of visitors not coming to Sabah,” he shared.

Meanwhile, the minister said some of the suggestions made by the delegation are in the pipeline awaiting implementation.

“For instance, the ministry through the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) is in the process of converting Gaya Street into a ‘walking street’ for tourists only at night. This is an ideal place for them to sample local delicacies and buy Sabah souvenirs. It is opening soon. The spot will be closed to traffic temporarily. We will try it out for three nights a week, and if it works well, then we will have it every night,” Liew enthused.

She was responding to John who said based on feedback from Chinese tourists, they have no place to spend their money while holidaying in the State capital.

She also took note of his call for the revival of the now-defunct Sabah International Hotels Association, which had been absorbed by the Malaysia Association of Hotels.

She reiterated that the issues of managing dirty toilets, opening of more immigration counters at the KKIA and making available
Chinese-speaking officers to cater to Chinese tourists, were being addressed.

“Malaysia Airports Bhd (MAB) has assured me that everything will be in order by the end of the year,” she said.

The meeting with the minister also revolved around tourism tax, shortage of tourist guides in Sandakan and Tawau, RSTG (Regional Sabah Tourist Guide) Training Course which offers a JPK Skill Certificate for Tour Guide (JPK is Department of Skill Development) and the Sabah Hospitality Fiesta. According to RSTG lead trainer Lim Su Khiong, this programme is only for Sabah where the training curriculum was designed by tourism players.

“Rest assured, I will work on what has been raised. And I will look into the suggestion that a ‘mystery shopper’ programme be put in place. The purpose is for ‘mystery shoppers’ to check out things on the ground and report directly to me. In fact, I am a ‘mystery shopper’ myself. Every time I travel, I would check the condition of toilets at the KKIA or those at other airports in major towns,

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