KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 (Bernama) -- As soon as they are informed that their children have been offered places in universities, parents - particularly those from the lower income group - are placed in a predicament. Why? Because they have to think about the preparations as well as the accompanying costs when their children step foot into their respective university campuses.
If the children are still in school, then the parents have to spend only on school gear, such as bags, shoes and uniforms. However, they then enter the `ivory tower,` where the opportunity of pursuing tertiary education is too good to miss.
Many of those who are offered places in tertiary education institutions hail from rural villages, and like it or not, they have to migrate to the urban zones where these university campuses are located.
Moreover, the funds needed are no small sum. Hence, it comes as no surprise that in the past, several youths from underprivileged families had to decline the chance of pursuing `their dream` in the universities.
Fortunately, the government has now set up the National Higher Education Fund Corporation, more popularly known as the `Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional` (PTPTN), to assist poor students.
In the last 13 years, the PTPTN had issued advance funds, known as the `Wang Pendahuluan Pembiayaan` (WPP), to help parents and their children who need assistance for getting into universities.
The government set up the PTPTN to ensure that no students holding offers to pursue tertiary education had to abandon their ambition due to the lack of funds.
The chief operations officer of PTPTN, Wan Ahmad Wan Yusoff, said that the WPP is a government initiative to realise human capital development and the lifelong learning concept.
"The welfare and interest of the underprivileged is the government`s priority. That is why the government created the WPP, to help families and their children who are faced with financial issues," he remarked.
It is no secret that the expenses incurred by students who gain admission to tertiary education institutions become a severe burden to those from the lower-income group, who cannot afford the costs.
"Through the WPP, RM1,500 is allocated to each student to reduce the financial burden," Wan Ahmad added.
TIMES HAVE CHANGED
According to Wan Ahmad, when WPP was introduced in 1999, it was known as the `Wang Pendahuluan Diri,` which was renamed `Wang Pendahuluan Pinjaman` in 2003. In December 2008, this form of cash advance came to be known by its present name.
The move is in line with the evolution of PTPTN, which is now based on the Ujrah Islamin system. This year, 32,777 undergraduates nationwide have received the WPP assistance, which totals more than RM49 million.
"To date (since 1999), 559,913 students have enjoyed the WPP facility, totalling RM812 million," Wan Ahmad declared, adding that the money was given in the form of warrants issued to the recipient`s name.
These warrants can be cashed in at any of CIMB Bank Berhad`s branches nationwide within one month of the date of issue.
The recipients can encash their respective warrants from May 21 to June 21, 2012.
Wan Ahmad stated that all students who have been offered places in tertiary education institutions qualify for the cash advance.
"They (students) only need to state their acceptance of the WPP when sending the online application to the universities through the Students Admission Division," he continued.
The PTPTN will process the acceptance and offer the WPP to the students who qualify for the facility.
The students can see the status of their application on the PTPTN website by mid-May, as the new semester for many universities starts either at the end of May or in early June.
The students will also receive an SMS regarding their WPP application status.
This year, the functions to hand over the WPP warrants were held at 35 locations nationwide, from May 18 to 23. Some of the functions were graced by national leaders, who conveyed their advice to the students.
In Kelantan, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed shared his experience with the 2,500 WPP recipients in a function held at the Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK) campus in Jeli, recently.
Mustapa, who had received education assistance from the government when he was in Form One, said that he used the money to meet his schooling needs, by buying school uniforms and study materials.
"Without the assistance, I would not have made it," he remarked, adding that many people from Kelantan have made it big due to the government`s assistance.
In Kedah, Mustapa`s deputy, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, conveyed another message to the recipients.
"PTPTN recipients should study hard to achieve the first grade, so that the loan can be converted into a scholarship," he suggested, referring to PTPTN`s latest decision to convert the loans into scholarships for 11,764 university students who achieved outstanding academic results.
VALUE ADDITION BY 2020
PTPTN is shouldering a heavy responsibility for ensuring the success of the national educational aspirations. Its objectives include creating a first-class human capital to meet the nation`s goal of becoming a developed nation by the year 2020.
This aspiration can be achieved if all parties fulfil the roles required from them.
Wan Ahmad advised the students to be thrifty and put the funds provided by PTPTN to good use.
"PTPTN is responsible for implementing the government`s aspiration to achieve the target wherein at least 50 percent of the population aged 17-23 years will obtain tertiary education by the year 2020.
"Before the PTPTN was established in 1997, the government could only afford to issue scholarships to some 26,000 students per year, but after the establishment of the PTPTN, as of March 31, 2012, it has approved funding for 1.96 million students in all, at the total cost of RM43.85 billion," Wan Ahmad added.