Debt of defaulting students with Fies amounts to R$ 6.7 billion

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After the federal government announced its intention to grant amnesty up to 92% of debtors to the Fund for Financing Students in Higher Education (Fies), a survey by CNN based on data from the Ministry of Education (MEC) shows that the measure would benefit just over one million people. This is the total number of defaulters, that is, customers who have contracts overdue for at least three months. The balance in arrears totals around R$6.7 billion.

The national rate of default on contracts is 50%. However, the level is only below average in just nine federation units. Amapá, in the North of the country, has the highest proportion of defaulters: 75%. The smallest is found in Santa Catarina, where 22% of contracts are in this situation.

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In absolute numbers, São Paulo, the most populous state in the country, concentrates the largest share of debtors: 269.2 thousand. Then appear Minas Gerais (90 thousand), Bahia (72 thousand) and Rio de Janeiro (67.2 thousand). At the other end, there are sparsely populated states in the North of the country: Roraima (3.3 thousand), Acre (7.3 thousand) and Amapá (9.7 thousand).

Fies is a modality in which students attend higher education with a part of the tuition fee financed, up to a limit of 92%. The unpaid amount will be paid after the training. In Brazil, around 85% of Brazilian places in higher education are offered by private institutions.

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Representatives of universities and their sponsors have different positions regarding an eventual amnesty. The proposal, however, would not affect the receipt of amounts by educational institutions, since the debts would be paid by the state.

Executive Director of the Brazilian Association of Higher Education Supporters (Abmes), Solon Caldas does not see any problems in an eventual amnesty. “It’s the kind of practice that happens frequently in a number of sectors of the economy, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work in education as well”, he ponders.

Entities ask for program reforms

For the Department of Specialized Modalities of Education (Semesp), the ideal is that there should be a reform in the program, which would adapt it now, with the contracts in force, to the Australian model. In it, students would pay off the installments in proportion to their income. If they become unemployed or have no income, they do not need to pay for that period, without having their names negatived.

The idea is also defended by Abmes, but based on a reform that makes it valid only for new contracts. For Rodrigo Capelato, executive director of Semesp, making the holders of contracts in force pay their installments is a matter of justice with the beneficiaries who honor the installments and with future candidates.

“The payment of installments is important because it helps to restore the fund’s resources and, thus, benefit other students who will seek funding in the following semesters”, evaluates Capelato.

Both entities agree, however, that the debate on amnesty opens the door to another discussion that they consider essential: the revision of the program’s format. Among the most desired changes by education entrepreneurs is the increase in the number of places offered. The number dropped from 875 thousand in 2013 to just 93 thousand in 2021.

“In addition to this abrupt reduction, currently, it has not been easy to fill the number of open positions, due to selection criteria. Basically, the students with the best grades are not in the income bracket that allows them to benefit from the program, since the gross monthly family income, per person, needs to be up to three minimum wages. And it is necessary to add at least 450 points in Enem, without zeroing the wording”, says Solon Caldas.

Capelato agrees and defends that the program should refinance 100% of the monthly fees, a measure that would help to avoid evasion. Especially with regard to courses that usually have the most expensive fees, such as medicine and dentistry.

“A medical course can cost R$ 10 thousand per month. A student with an income of up to three minimum wages, at best, would have to pay R$800, and he doesn’t have that resource. It is necessary to understand that this is not just banking, financial management. It is a public policy, which needs to be effective”, he concludes.

The entities representing the sector hope to debate issues like these when the government presents the text of the amnesty proposal, which will be proposed through a Provisional Measure (MP) and will need to be processed by the National Congress.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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