The RM39 billion owed by Malaysians to the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) is almost as much as the losses suffered by 1MDB, said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
"That's how much money has not been paid to the government for what it spent on you to give a good education, and therefore opportunities for a better job and income," he was quoted as saying by The Star.
1MDB had racked up RM42 billion in debt before the previous government moved to stem the losses in 2015.
Despite claims by the Najib administration that a rationalisation process was taking place, the Pakatan Harapan administration had revealed that 1MDB's debts were being serviced, quietly, by the federal government.
Meanwhile, postponing PTPTN loan repayments for those earning below RM4,000 monthly had been among the 10 promises Harapan previously pledged to fulfil within 100 days of forming the federal government.
However, this policy has yet to be enforced as the government is still working out a mechanism to implement the promise.