At the crossroads

Around 350 applicants have paid their tuition fees to different universities in Australia and are now unable to process their visas due to suspension of the education loans

The suspension of education loans by the two private financial institutions in the country, have caught around 350 applicants/students off guard, who have already transferred their tuition fees to different universities in Australia.

Without availing education loans or finances from other sources, these applicants will either need to defer their studies or seek alternative sources of finance as stable financial position is a requisite while
applying for visa.

Those applying for studies in Australia first need to get a letter of acceptance from a university, after which the tuition fee has to be paid. It is then that the process for visa begins.

According to Chairman of the Association of Bhutanese Education Consultancies, (ABEC) Palden Tshering, “The suspension of the loans could not be any worse for the 350 students as those requiring education loan, takes it at this stage to show a student’s financial capacity and assurance that they can support themselves for at least one year,”

He also mentioned that most students apply for education loans and then submit the sanctioned loan amount with their visa application as proof of financial support during their first year. “Because the education loan has been paused, these students now have to wait for directions from the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), who will then let the banks know when they can resume the education loan offer,” he said.

ABEC’s Chairman further explained that visa applications as a rule require 80 working days to be processed with either the Canadian or the Australian High Commission. “Sometimes visa do come fast but sometimes it take longer, that’s why the average waiting time can be up to 80 working days,” he said.

Palden added that those who have transferred their tuition fees, have all applied for the January and February 2023 intakes and that student visa applications have to be submitted this month (November) to ensure that one gets the visa in time.

Meanwhile, the 350 applicants must either defer their studies or seek other financial alternatives.

Moreover, deferment could also lead to paying additional tuition fees as it can be increased by the universities. “This is quite likely to happen as new fee structures are introduced with the New Year,’ ABEC’s Chairman said.

Palden further informed that ABEC has written to the government explaining the scenario and the government has subsequently discussed it with RMA. While it is not known what the government and RMA has discussed, he said that ABEC would be happy to have a conversation with the banks, should they be interested.

“I do hope that in the future our financial institutes that offer education loans plan it, so students are not cut off at the final stage of their applications; and banks are able to benefit through their service charges, especially during the most important time of the year when it is needed,” Palden said.

He also shared that as students are making a large investment for their futures, it requires planning and informed decisions, so that applicants are mentally prepared. “A sudden announcement like the education loan pause really catches everyone off guard,” he reiterated.

Right in the midst of what the Chairman explained about is Karma Tshering, who has already paid his tuition fees to Murdoch University, in Perth, Australia. “I do not want to say that I am the only one affected. There are many of us, who now do not know what to do,” he said, adding that those who can afford and have immovable assets are applying for their visas. Karma further said he and a group looked for private money lenders. “Some are worried about RMA’s rules on money lending and others charge exorbitant interests,” he said.

Nonetheless, Karma said they are hoping that the RMA and the government would do something. “But, we feel that for the January intake, we are getting late or already late,” he said, adding that though universities would refund the tuition fees, it would take time. “Further, the university will keep some amount for themselves as cancellation charges” he said, adding that most have also taken loans or borrowed money on interest to pay even the tuition fees.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu