The Minister for Education, Research, Science and Technology (DHERST), Minister Nick Kuman made the announcement that the Government has allocated K60 million to kick start the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP). The announcement was made during the 2020 academic year Orientation programme at the University of Papua New Guinea on Tuesday 4th of January 2020. This announcement was a slight deviation from the public press statements released by DHERST earlier this year advising the parents, students and public that HELP will be fully implemented in the Second Semester of 2020. The full press statements were posted here as follows:
HELP Application Forms
It seems the DHERST will be issuing applications for HELP through the Higher Educational Institutions rather than the previous press releases DHERST that applications will be through online and required Pre-requisites are National Identification Card (NID) (issued through the Civil Registry Office) and Tax Identification Number (TIN) obtained through Internal Revenue Commission (IRC). Another things that needs further clarification is the policy and legal legislations that needs to be place to operationalize the HELP. As per the announcement, the money will be released to HEIs in the beginning of the first semester to help support those students who indicate they want to apply for HELP to assist them to register in the first semester. It is understandable DHERST wants ease the registration process and get the students into institutions in the first semester and then it can facilitate their HELP applications.
“I (Minister) will make sure that DHERST secretary (Fr.Jan Czuba) distributes this money to all higher education institutions by closing of the registrations. If you are applying for HELP, you (students) tell your registrar during registration so that they will assist you in the necessary processes. DHERST will process your applications.”
National Identification Card (NID) And Birth Certificate Registration.
The minister reaffirmed that NID is key requirement for students to access HELP. NID Facilities will be provided on campuses in the first three months of the school for students to register.
PNG Civil Registry Office has announced in the public media that they will set up specific desks for processing student applications for NID at their registration centres in the provincial towns and in NCD centres. Civil Registry Office will advice the public how they will implement this to cover all HEIs around the country and which government agency will foot the cost of this exercise. Currently, NID Office has a huge backlog of applications for NID and birth Certificates to issue. If Civil Registry does not complete the NID application processing and issuance of cards to students on time within the 3 months of schooling, the HELP application processing will most likely be further delayed.
Maximum Loan HELP Amount Available to Students.
The following table outlines the maximum amount amount available to student per year or for the whole program period.
TESAS Will Remain
The current Tertiary Education Student Assistance Scheme (TESAS) will remain and it will not be replaced by HELP. HELP will be interest free and students who accessed the HELP facility will be required to repay it later.
Clarity and Consistency of Information Needed from Implementing Agencies on HELP.
HELP is a major government policy initiative being implemented By DHERST as the lead government agency with the support of PNG Civil Registry Office (NID and Birth Certificates), Internal Revenue Commission (TIN), Department of Attorney General (Legal requirements), Higher Learning Institutions (HEIs)-(student Contact points). All need to make announcements that are consistent and coherent so that general public, students and stakeholders are better informed. So far only DHERST is making public media press releases. An academic year begins for 2020, more is expected from these agencies.