The Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) has disclosed that it has received 110,000 first-time applications so far, against a projected figure of 79,000. This projects a surplus of more than 30,000 students who have applied for the loan.
Submissions will close at the end of the month, meaning the numbers could rise, further complicating matters for a board currently struggling with low funding from the Exchequer and short on alternative sources. More than 30,000 First Year university students may miss out on government loans in January due to the unprecedented number of applications as noted by the body.
Although Helb boss Charles Ringera said it was too early to talk about “a funding gap”, he noted that the agency was “heightening recovery mechanism” as one way of meeting the high demand. He pointed fingers to the double-intake programme, which sees public universities admit two groups of freshmen within the same academic year. out of the 68 universities in the country, 124,000 continuing students also have applied for loans, while 4,500 pursuing their masters and doctorate programmes are also being financed by the board. Helb is therefore currently processing loans for 338,000 students.
Mr Ringera said that it would cost Sh9.714 billion to meet the demand. “We are now analysing the numbers of first-time applicants to send to the ministry (of Education) for funding support”,he said.
“Meanwhile, we are heightening our recovery mechanism with a target of double digit growth this year,” Mr Ringera noted.
Currently, more than 60 per cent of Helb money comes from payment by past borrowers. But success has been minimal as only Sh3.4 billion has been recouped from the lot this year — a mere fifth of the debt.
“The National Treasury gave Sh3.34 billion and we expect to collect Sh3.4 billion. If we factor in operating expenses, then we have a net of Sh5.7 billion to take care of all continuing students,” Mr Ringera said.
The first year students have so far not received disbursements into their accounts and most are worried that they may be forced to differ their studies. HELB a week ago issued a statement that they will be disbursing the amount into the students account in January next year.