Students HELB Loans To Be Increased 5 Times Under Current Proposal
If a proposal by the Ministry of Education and the statutory body is approved, university students could soon be receiving more than five times the amount they receive as loans from the Higher Education Loans Board, Helb.
Simon Nabukwesi, principal secretary for University Education and Research in the Ministry of Education, and Charles Ringera, chief executive officer of Helb, have petitioned Parliament to consider increasing funding for student loans, bringing the maximum allocation to Sh200,000 per year.
Currently, students receive an average of Sh37,000 per year, which the PS and CEO argue is insufficient for students to pay school fees and maintain themselves in light of rising economic demands.
Nabukwesi, on the other hand, claims that the board is underfunded and thus unable to adequately fund the students.
He says many students missed out on this year’s loans due to a lack of funding adding that Helb is currently charging students an average of Sh37,000, which is insufficient.
“We need more funding to enable Helb to raise the loan allocation to Sh200,000 per student annually,” Mr. Nabukwesi explained.
According to Mr. Ringera, Helb plans to finance 74,438 first-year university students in the fiscal year 2021/2022, compared to 128,073 students placed by Kenya Universities and Central Placement Services (Kuccps), leaving out a total of 53,635 students under government sponsorship.
Ringera attributed this to the board’s available budget for the year and asked members of parliament to consider allocating more funding to the board.
“Helb recognizes the importance of providing funds to all students who applied for loans and has requested an additional Sh4.9 billion to cover the deficit,” he said.
Mr. Nabukwesi and Mr. Ringera testified before the National Assembly’s Education Committee two weeks ago, explaining why Helb has yet to release funding for students enrolling in universities and other institutions of higher learning for the 2021/2022 academic year.
Hon. Peter Kaluma, the MP for Homa Bay town, had also asked the ministry to explain why the University of Nairobi’s first-year students had not been funded before their reporting date.
Ringera stated that Helb invited loan applications for first-time applicants on July 19, 2021, but students could not apply immediately because they had not yet been placed, and that placement results were released a month later on August 17, 2021.
He also stated that universities began admissions a week after placement, implying that students did not have enough time to submit loan application requests to Helb.
Specifically, first-year students at the University of Nairobi were summoned to report on August 30, a week after placement and receipt of admission letters according to Ringera.
Ringera stated that as of October 7, 2021, Helb had received and processed a total of 13,091 loan application requests, with loans totaling Sh588 million being awarded.
“Out of this, Sh247 million was released to 10,897 students to cater for upkeep for their first semester. Some 2,194 students are yet to be paid because they are not in session as per semester opening dates provided by their respective universities,” said Mr. Ringera.
He noted that the payment for the second semester will be made available as soon as institutions begin their second-semester dates.
Mr. Nabukwesi stated that Helb is processing and paying loan requests as they come in and are guided by semester start dates.
Funds are then released to students at least two weeks before the start of the semester, as provided by various institutions of higher learning.
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On funding for students under the age of 18, Mr. Ringera was pressed by MPs to explain why Helb has continued to deny student loans despite the Education Committee passing a law allowing students to benefit.
According to Ringera, only students with national ID cards are legally permitted to obtain loans.