The Student Loan Fund (SLF) will be available to all working-age adults for upskilling and reskilling as Thailand becomes an ageing society, says Chainarong Katchapanan, manager of the SLF.
He said by the end of this year, loans will be offered to Thais aged 18-65 for upskilling and reskilling in non-formal educational institutions, the first such shift since the fund was established in 1996.
The change aligns with the policy to expand educational opportunities based on the amended Student Loan Fund Act of 2023.
Moreover, by the end of this year loans will be granted to around 200 institutions teaching nursing care, helping to deal with another ageing society trend, said Mr Chainarong.
Loans will be capped at 50,000 baht per borrower, with a target of 2,000 people, he said.
The shift is driven by the fund recognising learning also takes place at non-formal educational institutions, such as vocational institutes with short courses of no more than 150 hours, which are considered vital to workforce upskilling or reskilling.
In addition to caregiving, other short-course study programmes include hotel management, underwater welding, and spa therapy.
Any student applying for a loan must pursue a study programme of not more than one year at a non-formal educational institution accredited by the Office of the Private Education Commission.
The loan carries a grace period of two years, after which debt repayment is required within two years.
For a loan amount of 50,000 baht over a two-year repayment period, the monthly instalment averages 2,000 baht.
According to the amended SLF law, the fine for late payments was reduced from 7.5% annually to 0.5%, while loan interest is still capped at 1%, which is considered the lowest interest rate in the domestic financial system.
The fund has lent 700 billion baht in total to 6.2 million students.
Outstanding loans total 350 billion baht from 350,000 borrowers.
However, some have failed to repay their loan by the due date, accounting for 90 billion baht or almost 30% of the outstanding loan balance.
For the 2023 academic year, the fund increased the loan limit to 46.1 billion baht from 40.7 billion, an uptick of 13% to support increased demand for student loans. Some 760,000 students receive loans, up by 117,000.
Debt repayment tallied 25.7 billion baht as of Sept 12, 2023.
The fund is preparing to draft a contract for dispute settlement and debt restructuring for both "pre-sue" and "post-sue" debtors by the end of this year, said Mr Chainarong.
The Fiscal Policy Office previously reported Thailand was an ageing society, with at least 10% of the population age 60 or older since 2005.
In 2019, the country's population age 60 and older exceeded the young population for the first time.
While the Thai population is increasing slowly at only 0.5% per year, the average lifespan of Thais has increased to 76 years, with men at 73 and women 81.
Thailand is expected to become an "aged" society this year or next, with people age 60 and older set to account for 20% of the population. The nation is forecast to become a "super-aged" society in 2034 when the proportion of the population age 60 or older reaches 28%.