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What you MUST know before taking an education loan

Last updated on: November 22, 2012 15:00 IST

What you MUST know before taking an education loan

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Saurabh Naruka

Cases of students defaulting on loan payments prompted Indian Bankers Association to review the educational loan scheme. We explore what this means for students.

The Indian banking sector began giving loans for higher education from 2001 onwards.

But recently, in the wake of increasing Non Performing Assets (NPA) on educational loans, the Indian Bankers Association (IBA) has revised the educational loan scheme, framed in 2001.

Though the situation is far from worrying, banks have been advised to be prudent and cautious while granting educational loans.

For instance, State Level Bankers' Committee (SLBC) Chairperson Usha Ananthasubramanian sent a strong message to banks in Punjab and Haryana when she told a committee meeting that, "The non-performing assets level is certainly on the higher side in case of education loan advanced collateral free. Only the meritorious rather than the deserving candidates should be considered for granting education loan."

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Image: Education loans make higher education domain accessible even to those from poor backgrounds
Photographs: Courtesy Careers360

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High fees, low funding

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The above IBA document on the scheme throws light on the thinking in government circles on funding higher education when it observes that "public funding of higher education is not considered feasible. This model education loan scheme is an attempt to bring out a viable and sustainable bank loan scheme to meet the aspirations of our society."

The rationale for this way of funding higher education has not gone uncontested; critics point out that it is not in the students' interest to be burdened with debt early in their careers.

Also, that public expenditure of less than 1 per cent of GDP on higher education is lower than even many developing countries.

And with low tax-GDP ratio there is ample scope to fund higher education by raising resources from tax.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh



Tags: GDP , IBA , Uttam Ghosh

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Top priority for education loans

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The RBI has included education loans as part of the priority sector lending of banks.

It aims to provide need-based finance to meritorious students. But students should bear in mind that educational loan is like any other commercial credit, and it is at the bank's discretion to sanction a loan after assessing 'credit worthiness' of the borrower.

This entails that students should be well prepared for commercial negotiations by doing their homework well on how to repay the credit through earnings from job. 

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh





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Your credit 'worthiness'

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Students generally don't have any credit history and their credit worthiness is presumed for granting educational loans.

But banks insist that parents who are joint borrowers should also have a clear credit history.

In case parents have an adverse credit history, the bank may insist on having joint borrowers, other than parents, on which they can rely.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh




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What does 'meritorious' mean?

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This is a relative term, assumed if the student has qualified the entrance exam for admission to professional and technical courses.

But in case selection is purely based on marks scored in the qualifying exams, the banks sometimes fix cut-off marks (percentage) for loan eligibility.

Those being selected under the 'management quota' have been kept outside the purview of educational loan schemes as they are not considered as fulfilling the criteria of merit.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier




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Employability after course

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It's essential that students land up with good jobs on completing the course to repay a loan.

So banks do consider available ratings in public domain, reflecting employability of students through campus placements of the institutes, for loan approval.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh





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The verdict

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Loan applications are received either directly at bank branches or through online.

Sanction or rejection of a loan is supposed to be communicated within 15 days of receipt of duly completed application.

Students can demand reasons for rejection of loan application in writing from banks.

No processing charges are to be paid as per the scheme.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh




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Irony of interest rates

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Interest rates depend on whether you are studying in India or abroad, the course that you are applying for, your loan amount and the tenure.

Students getting admission to highly rated institutions are offered loans with a lower rate of interest.

There have been talks that IBA will soon come up with comprehensive ratings of the institutes to guide banks in making right decisions while granting educational loans.

From a student's perspective, the irony of it is that they will have to shell out more for Equated Monthly instalments (EMI) due to high interest rates in case institutes have been rated on the downside.

On the other hand, it's likely they would be placed at lower packages from such institutes! Special concessions on interest rates of 0.5 per cent are available for women students.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh



Tags: IBA , Uttam Ghosh , EMI , India

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Types of interest rates

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These comprise fixed interest and floating interest rate.

Usually, nationalised banks offer variable interest rates for student loans, while private and foreign banks offer fixed interest rates.

Interest rates vary between 12 to 16 per cent.

Considering the present macro-economic environment it is advisable to go for floating interest rate loans.

SBI is the leading player with 25 per cent share in education loan segment.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier




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Simple vs Compound interest

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Simple interest is to be charged during the study period and up to commencement of repayment.

There have been complaints that banks charge compound interest.

Servicing of interest during the moratorium period is optional and students can avail one per cent rebate on interest rate if they decide to pay.



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Paying it back

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Repayment is generally in the form of EMI.

Student should compare their EMI with likely salary.

They can determine their EMI amount for different combinations of interest rates and tenure by using the EMI calculator available online.

According to experts, it's desirable that the EMI should not exceed 50 per cent of one's likely salary. It may happen that students are not able to repay loans if salary is less than expected.

In such cases, students may request banks to reschedule their loans.

In some careers, it is observed that salary levels initially are low.

Telescoping of repayment with stepped up instalments with the passage of time is considered in such cases by banks on request.

No prepayment charges are generally levied by public sector banks in case of early settlement of loan. The new scheme has extended the loan tenure which is likely to facilitate lower EMI repayment.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh




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Academic progress

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Monitoring academic progress of student is necessary for banks to ensure asset quality of loans though subsequent instalments can't be stopped for the mere reason that the student has failed in one or two subjects provided he has been allowed to keep terms.

Some foreign universities require students to submit a certificate from their bankers about the sponsors' solvency/financial capability.

Students can approach banks to issue such a 'capability certificate'.

But one needs to be careful so as to maintain a certain level of academic progress throughout the course of study.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh





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Parental caution

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Bokaro-based Ranjit Kumar Sinha who has taken educational loans for his two siblings is a satisfied parent.

Yet he cautions students that they should be sure of employability of courses before taking up the burden of repaying credit.

He also suggests that students should pay EMI on time to avoid high penal interest.

They should also be vigilant while servicing loans as sometimes banks keep on levying the penal charges even after default has been made good.

So paying on time is the best mantra.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh





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Interest subsidy

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For the benefit of Economically Weaker Sections or EWS (family income less than Rs 4.5 lakhs), the above said central government scheme provides full interest subsidy during the period of moratorium on loans taken by students from scheduled banks.

They can pursue any of the approved courses in technical and professional streams from recognised institutions.

Students with family income less than Rs 4.5 lakhs can apply to their respective banks for availing concessions given by the scheme.

Details of the scheme and list of approved authorities state-wise to issue income certificate can be found at Canara Bank -- Educational Loans.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier




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The regulatory regime

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Banks play an enabling role in increasing access to higher education by extending education loans.

However, the regulatory regime needs to be strengthened simultaneously to ensure quality among new higher education institutions through compulsory accreditation and strict implementation of guidelines by University Grants Commission, All India Council for Technical Education and other regulatory bodies.

These steps are necessary to ensure employability of students.

Fees in such institutes need to be regulated strictly as per apex court judgements so that students don't suffer due to profiteering.

"There was a mismatch between the higher cost of education and the potential income levels of students after completion of education in some professional courses, which had to be addressed," highlights S Raman, Chairman and Managing Director of Canara Bank.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier




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Role of the government

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The banks that lend loans are likely to be shy in exposing themselves to such loans, if the risk of defaults persist, as seen in the last two financial years.

As far as the student community is concerned, it should insist to the government that too much reliance on educational loans is not in their interest and that the government should be willing to play its role in making higher education opportunity affordable for all.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier





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