Implementation of the student loans scheme as a viable cost-sharing measure in promoting equitable access to higher education in Zambia: Perspectives of selected stakeholders in the education sector
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The study investigated Zambia’s capacity to design and implement an effective student loans scheme, as a viable cost sharing measure in promoting equitable access to higher education in Zambia. The study employed a cross sectional or survey design. The target population consisted of stakeholders in higher education such as education administrators, economists, parents and students in public universities. Purposive sampling was used to select Lusaka and Kitwe districts as study areas in which two of Zambia’s public universities, UNZA and CBU are found. Five key informants to the study were also purposively selected. Seven parents were selected through snowballing on the basis that they had children/dependents in college or university. The random sampling method was used to select 145 students from UNZA and CBU to participate in the study. The total study sample was 157. Three instruments were used for data collection in the study: the self administered questionnaire, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussion guide. Qualitative data were collected and analyzed on an on-going process as themes and sub-themes emerged through thematic analysis. Quantitative data were analyzed using CSpro Version 5.0 and SPSS Version 21 through which descriptive statistics in form of statistical tables, means and charts were generated.The findings showed that for the student loans scheme to work successfully and sustainably in Zambia there was need for: a clear aim of the student loans scheme to be implemented,government to finance the loans, the institution administering the loans to collaborate with credible financial institutions, and public awareness campaigns to educate the people about the student loans and how they can access and repay them back. It was also found that for the student loans scheme to benefit the poor to access higher education, the programme design needed to ensure that: loans are properly targeted through means testing, the eligibility and selection criteria to access the loans were clearly defined and that beneficiaries get adequate loans to enable them complete their studies. The findings of the study further showed that if mechanisms such as: a strengthened legal framework, clearly defined mode of loan repayment, credible loan collection institutions, low interest rates and effective tracking systems are put in place, student loan recoveries can be improved effectively. Lastly, the study revealed that: the student loans scheme was perceived to be a good policy to promote equitable access to higher education in Zambia; parents and students were willing to contribute to the cost of higher education through student loans; the loan scheme was a sustainable way of student financing which could ease the financial burden of government, parents and students to finance higher education. Based on the findings of the study, it was concluded that even if Zambia had the potential to implement a viable student loans scheme, a number of necessary pre-conditions had not been put in place to warrant an effective student loans scheme at present. Some of the necessary preconditions which were not in place included lack of: a law to enforce loan repayments, effective public awareness campaigns on loans, rigorous means testing to target the needy, an autonomous institution to administer the loans and effective tracking and loan repayment systems. The study recommended that: a law be enacted to make loan repayments legally enforceable, the Bursaries Committee be transformed into a statutory body to operate independently, rigorous means testing mechanisms to target loans at the needy, effective tracking and loan repayment systems be developed to recover the loans.
- Education