The Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) has reduced the highest allocation per student by 20 per cent for freshmen who are expected to start receiving funds Tuesday, after a four-month delay.
“The unprecedented number of applicants caught us off-guard; we had to allocate funds to a larger number of students than we had anticipated,” said Charles Ringera, the Helb chief executive officer.
First year students who joined public universities and tertiary technical institutions from last September have been surviving without the loans needed to pay for meals, housing and personal upkeep.
Mr Ringera says last year’s re-basing of the economy, which showed that Kenya is now a middle-income country with a per capita income of Sh113,386 ($1,246), also indicates that students generally require less support from the State to finance their university education than they did previously.
“The system we use to calculate and allocate loans factors in the income of a beneficiary’s parents or guardians. Since the economy was rebased, their improved earnings have been captured by the system.”
Helb’s maximum allocation has remained at Sh60,000 for more than six years while the minimum allocation is Sh35,000.
The Sh60,000 is given to disadvantaged students like orphans, after confirming their economic and social status in a verification process that Helb concluded last week.
Students, however, claim that these funds are not enough given the higher cost of living, leaving Helb – which is grappling with funding inadequacies – with a tough balancing act.
Freshman loan applications to Helb last year increased by 96 per cent to 118,000 from the 56,000 that the State agency received and processed the previous year.
“Total university helb loan applications received were 118, 000. However, based on budget allocation from exchequer the cash would end up having 25, 000 students missing helb loan as their cash allocation is below this demand. To be specific, first years alone, 7,000 of them are expected to get zero(0); meaning, they will wait till more cash or loan recovery is obtained”,KNUSU Ag President Raphael Raggot revealed after meeting the HELB CEO yesterday.
Approximately 90,000 of these applications came from undergraduate students and another 20,000 from students picked to join Technical, Industrial, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training institutions.
“Out of the 118,000 first-time applicants, 65,000 qualified for loans but not all will benefit in one phase,” said Mr Ringera. “With such an increase, no one can say we failed to plan: we have been sitting in meetings but the number is far beyond our capacity.”
The disbursement brings to an end a prolonged wait for students who have had to survive one semester without the crucial funds.
The Kenya University Students Organisation had issued a strike notice to pressure Helb release the funds but called it off at the last minute after the State agency promised to comply.
SOURCE> BUSINESS DAILY