A new government policy on higher education student loans which seeks to increase the role of parents and guardians in their children’s education has sparked a stormy debate.
The policy seeks to promote a cost-sharing formula, whereby government will no longer have to solely bear burden for quality and sustainable higher education.
Across the world, governments have increasingly pulled out of directly funding individual student’s higher education, with private operators and indeed families assuming a bigger role.
The Rwandan government has rightly decided that students from families which are capable of meeting the cost of university education should no longer receive the loans.
But the policy does not scrap government’s student loans. Students from families that cannot genuinely afford university tuition will continue to receive government assistance, while those that can only afford half the tuition will receive the other half from the government.
Government says this will allow it to put more emphasis on basic education, including Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), as well as infrastructure and research in learning institutions.
Contrary to some suggestions, this is a good and timely policy. The government is faced with so many competing priorities and it’s only normal that parents and families are expected to dig deep, and make sacrifices where necessary, to invest in their children’s future.
That there might have been some errors in the process to determine who qualifies for government loan and who doesn’t should not discredit an otherwise positive and well-intentioned policy. We should not allow the debate around this policy to be shaped by our emotions; we should look at the bigger picture, the long-term dividends that come with this shift.
If the Ubudehe classification arrangement is not the most ideal measure to determine who qualifies for this support, then other options can be considered. But if the Ubudehe formula can be of any help then we should still make the most of it and ensure that the process is transparent and fair.
Rather than resist the policy without offering alternatives, those affected should borrow a leaf from their peers who attend private universities, some of whom pay way higher than the flat fee charged by public universities, with view to adjusting accordingly.