Muscat: Students who fail to qualify for Government scholarships face thousands of rials bank loan repayments when they graduate from higher education institutions preventing them from owning a home or buying their first car.
With a pressure of landing a job in a tight employment market, such students saddle themselves with education loans of up to OMR20,000 over four years of their degree programme.
According to the Ministry of Higher Education's statistics, about 35,000 students in 27 universities and colleges are currently studying in various disciplines under the government's scholarship grant. But not all youngsters are lucky enough to get a government scholarship due to stringent grading system.
About 4,000 students are currently under the academic loan schemes privately funded by local banks, according to the statistics gathered by Times of Oman from financial institutions.
"I am graduating this summer with a bank loan of OMR19,400 that I need to pay when I find a job. It is already starting to stress me up. I will not be able to buy a car to go to work or afford a holiday. I am depressed and now look forward to start my first job," Faiza Al Farsi, a business student at College of Banking and Financial Studies, told Times of Oman.
Students pay only 2 per cent interest while studying and on graduation they will need to pay the full repayment that can go up to OMR400 a month, which is more than half of what they expect to earn when they get a job. For those who are brave enough to buy their first car, they are left with only a few rials in their pockets.
"It leaves me with almost nothing for myself," Fareed Alawi, an Oman Air employee who started working in February, said, adding, "After I have paid OMR200 each month to support my parents, OMR175 towards the car instalment and spent OMR50 on petrol, I have to think twice before I buy a burger or smoke a sheesha."
For some, marriage is out of question for the next five years until they finish off their loan repayments.
" I cannot marry the sweetheart of my college. We are putting off the wedding until 2018 when I am financially ready after I got rid of the education loan. That also means I have to wait another five years after that to own a home. It is tough and frustrating," Khamis Al Sinani, told Times of Oman, who graduated with an IT degree last year.
A ministry of higher education official said that the government was aware of the academic loans but explained those who miss out scholarships have not made the required grades.
"We cannot pay for students who finish off secondary schools with C grades. It will inflate the budget that is allocated to the scholarship department. Besides, we need to reward those who work hard at schools and not the ones who play around," the official told Times of Oman.
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