The government's student loan scheme can be abused by applicants, the Ombudsman, Connie Lau Yin-hing, said. Lau highlighted 13,000 default cases recorded over the past three years, resulting in HK$200 million in unpaid debts.
More than half of the unpaid debts came from the extended non-means-tested loan scheme, which offers loans at lower-than-market rates - mostly for people to enrol in part-time courses.
Speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday, Lau called on her office to submit negative credit data of the more serious defaulters to credit reference agencies to deter potential non-payers.
"These people [applicants for the extended scheme] have the ability to repay the loans but they choose not to," Lau said. "Maybe one of the reasons [is that] there is not enough [of a] deterrent effect."
The Ombudsman suggested other improvements to the system, including establishing a limit on the number of courses and loan applications students can file, and a stricter vetting procedure and computerised vetting to speed up the application process.
The Education Bureau said it welcomed the Ombudsman's report, but education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said the proposal had "serious implications" for indebted students, because the current education system had failed many recent graduates by forcing them to enrol in non-subsidised tertiary programmes.