Almost 60 nursing and public health students in Sri Sa Ket and Nakhon Si Thammarat have urged the government to speed up disbursing student loans after months of delay.
Four representatives on 42 first-year students from Chalermkarnchana University's Faculty of Nursing at Sri Sa Ket travelled to Bangkok by train to submit a letter to the Finance Ministry yesterday.
The ministry's plan and policy analyst, Kamonthip Paothong, received the letter.
They asked the ministry for help as they and their classmates had been unable to take out student loans since the first semester of this year.
The loan disbursement process has made no headway, they said, adding the Student Loan Fund (SLF) has not replied to their loan applications, raising concerns among students they might not have money in time to register for their courses.
Pattamawan Phanaun, a first-year nursing student, told reporters that her family must now borrow from non-mainstream lenders who charge high-interest rates to pay for her tuition.
Ms Pattamawan has called on state agencies to help speed up the approval process for student loans, as it is necessary to guarantee her a placement in the faculty and secure the future of her education.
She said the SLF should explain to students any problem holding up their applications and whether the delay has stemmed from the absence of certain documents.
She said the delay has persisted for eight months, and applicants face the prospect of dropping out due to lack of funds.
Fortunately, the university still allows student loan applicants to attend class and take exams, she said.
Ms Pattamawan urged the SLF to treat them fairly and speed up the applicant review process.
She said the SLF should waste no time handing out loans to applicants whose documents are complete.
"The delay could cut short our opportunity to study nursing and serve society," Ms Pattamawan said.
She also urged the SLF to check why some students were disqualified from taking out loans this second semester.
Also in Nakhon Si Thammarat, 15 first-year students from Chalermkarnchana University's Faculty of Public Health led by Arphonrat Kongleh handed a complaint to the provincial Damrongtham Centre over a seven-month delay in loan disbursements under the SLF.
The students and their families, who are mostly poor farmers, are running out of money to cover tuition of around 45,000 baht per semester.
The centre director, Phatchanan Srimuang, received the letter.
"They applied for the student loan seven months ago and received no reply [from the SLF]," Ms Arphonrat said.
The students are afraid for their educational future, she said, adding they hoped to work at local hospitals after graduation.
"Our dreams are in limbo. They might not come true if we don't get the loan," she said, wiping away tears.
Ms Arphonrat said she has been waiting for a long time, but the SLF has not yet approved her application.
"I do not have enough money to cover expenses, including tuition and daily costs. My father must work harder to support my studies," she said.