A group of university students yesterday called for modifications to regulations on student loans to improve the quality of learning and the well-being of students who depend on loans for their education.
At a press conference at the legislature, the participants said student loans were one of the first steps young people take into poverty and that the government should help relieve the heavy financial burden facing such students.
A report on a survey conducted last month and this month on the -income and financial conditions of 458 students who were or are currently on student loans found that close to 80 percent of those students needed a part-time job while in school to cover their daily expenses.
Almost 50 percent of respondents worked more than 10 hours per week, of whom 10 percent worked more than 30 hours per week. About 70 percent of students surveyed said student loans were a heavy burden.
Citing Article 13 of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the right to free education, Shi Yi-hsiang (施逸翔), a representative of the group, said: “The covenant recognizes the right of everyone to free education and is directed toward ‘the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity.’”
A student on a student loan said in a letter that she could not join extracurricular activities or student clubs because she had to work six days a week after class.
“Students who receive less financial support have to take work more seriously than their studies. How can they receive a proper education?” Shi asked.
Student loans should help move students out of poverty, but now students with loans cannot afford to study and still must carry a heavy debt after graduation, Shi said.
A woman in her early 30s surnamed Kuo (郭) said that while she received a student loan when studying for her master’s degree, she did not make enough money from her part-time jobs to pay her rent and daily expenses.
“My income was very unstable at the time, so I had to carry my luggage on the streets and stayed at various friends’ places,” she said.
“I felt like a homeless person. When I dragged my luggage on the streets, I would tell myself that this is the last time, but in fact this situation lasted more than a year. It was hard for me to attend to my studies and my living situation,” she said.
The student group urged the government to provide more scholarships for students who need the funding to support their education.
It called for amendments to regulations to allow students to pay back their debt in accordance with their income after graduation. The government should also be the guarantor for student loans to ensure that every student who meets the conditions can apply for a loan, it said.
A student surnamed Tsai (蔡) said that because of her father’s bankruptcy and low income, banks were unwilling to let her apply for a student loan and her mother had asked her to quit school.
She was able to graduate from university thanks to assistance from employees at her school, who gave her a stable part-time job, she said.
However, she added, her younger sister had to quit school after graduating from junior-high school.
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