Starting from the next academic year, students will no longer be provided with a smart card. The money which could previously only be withdrawn from the student smart card will now get sent straight to students’ bank accounts. Basically, what used to be smart card money will now be an addition to the stipend.
According to Education Minister Evarist Bartolo, this was done to reduce the administrative costs of the smart card system, thereby saving the government around 175,000 euros in expenses.
This change has generated debate among students. Those who disagree with the new system are arguing that students who want to inappropriately use money that is given to them by the Government specifically for educational purposes will now be able to do very easily. Although most are ready to admit that the old smart card system wasn’t fool proof against those who wanted to abuse the system, it was still something.
However, the question remains: is that ‘something’ worth 175,000 euros of administrative costs? According to Evarist Bartolo, it clearly is not. But what about the checks and balances that are needed to ensure that there will be at least some control over those students who are abusing the system? According to KSU president Gayle Lynn Callus, a possible solution could involve asking students to produce receipts for the things that they have bought with the money given to them to help further their studies.
I believe that another solution to this problem lies in reviewing the reading list of each study unit because, as things stand, many students are being asked to buy books and other reading material that they won’t be using during their course. When students are made aware of this, they refrain from buying those books and other reading material which they don’t need. After buying what they need for the academic year, they then end up spending that excess money on other stuff which is not necessarily related to their studies.
It is only a matter of time before students will be able to decide for themselves whether this new grant system will render them better or worse off. In the meantime, the debate continues…