PTPTN to disburse RM997m matching grant for the poor

Govt will provide ringgit-to-ringgit matching grant up to RM10,000 depending on the amount and period of savings

by AZREEN HANI/ pic by BERNAMA

THE National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) will work with state governments and related agencies to disburse about RM997 million in matching grant announced in 2003.

The move could help poor students in the bottom 40% income group (B40) to gain higher monetary aids, reduce borrowings and prevent cases of students who had to forego their higher education offers due to financial difficulties.

The matching grant scheme was announced by Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during his first tenure as PM in 2003. The government allocated RM1 billion in the form of matching grant as a special incentive to encourage low-income earners to save via the SSPN-i (Skim Simpanan Pendidikan Nasional) scheme.

This means that the government will provide ringgit-to-ringgit matching grant up to RM10,000 depending on the amount and period of savings for parents earning less than RM4,000 and their child enrolled into higher education institutions.

As of July 31, 2019, only RM2.4 million was channelled to 1,726 depositors, comprising 1,854 accounts.

PTPTN chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan said PTPTN plans to match the exact amount funded by the state government, Lembaga Zakat or a corporate social responsibility programme by the private sector for contributions made to recipients and channelled to the SSPN-i account.

“If a company gives RM500 to an individual, the person may only get that (amount). But if they disburse through our grant, the person will get an additional RM500 in the SSPN-i account. We will top up an equal value, ringgit to ringgit,” Wan Saiful said in a recent exclusive interview.

He said PTPTN had engaged the state governments of Kedah, Melaka, Penang, Negri Sembilan and Sabah.

“We have visited the chief ministers and Sabah state excos. We will continue to meet them. Hopefully they’ll utilise the grant as well.

“I think the message from Tun (Dr Mahathir) was clear that he wanted the people to save. So, when we checked the grant we realised we have RM997.5 million left for the scheme. We are reviving that campaign; reminding the whole country that the scheme is available,” said Wan Saiful.

He said the emphasis of the previous governments was skewed to borrowing, resulting in the fund being unused.

He acknowledged opening SSPN-i accounts could be difficult for the lower-income group who do not have money for savings.

To overcome that obstacle, Wan Saiful said the fund is looking to form strategic partnership with state governments, zakat collection agencies and charitable bodies that have close contacts with the target groups.

“As much as I’m hoping that the lower-income group would save as much as they can, what would be really helpful is that companies, private foundations, even state governments and government agencies incorporate this scheme to assist the lower-income group.

“If they already giving RM500, why not channel into the SSPN-i account under the grant so that we can match the contribution,” he said, adding that PTPTN is inviting any parties to help the B40 group.

The matching grant scheme is a part of PTPTN’s effort to reposition itself from just providing education loan to promoting saving products.

“PTPTN programmes now focus more on savings products — SSPN-i rather than PTPTN education loan. We are hoping that through various SSPN programmes such as Jelajah SSPN and Minggu Menabung SSPN, we will be able to disseminate this information to the public (B40 group), so that they can seize the opportunity,” Wan Saiful said.

Meanwhile, on the Public Consultative Paper conducted by PTPTN, Wan Saiful said it was a success based on the feedback received from the public.

“We have received more than 20,000 feedback and we have analysed and presented it to the Education Ministry.

“I think we may have found the solution for the repayment mechanism, but it is still under the ministry’s purview to deliberate and announce it,” said Wan Saiful.