Globally, students borrow money to finance their education, either from financial institutions or from other known sources. However, the risk involved in financing students who have no collateral and take years to repay has in the past deterred the provision of loans. Over the past 2-3 decades, especially in the developed nations, governments have established loan programmes or borrowing schemes to enable students to finance their own education with much success. Sri Lanka got on this bandwagon much later, but since 2017 our government has set up the Interest Free Student Loan Scheme (IFSLS) for students joining the non-state higher education institutes. SLANSHEI was instrumental in promoting and establishing this scheme to increase opportunities and improve equity and access to higher education.
However, having disbursed the IFSLS for 5 years, a review of if it has met expectations and how much more it can benefit students if improved and expanded is of national interest. It is imperative that we improve this scheme to meet the expectations of all stakeholders. To this effect, SLANSHEI has developed a proposal that seeks to address the challenges from the perspectives of the key stakeholders – the government, the taxpayer, the students, and the non-state higher education institutes.