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Longer wait for Helb cash in First Years’ signature hitch

Students queuing at HELB offices in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Students queuing at HELB offices in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

First Year university students will have to wait longer for the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) disbursements after thousands failed to sign loan application forms.

Helb chief executive Charles Ringera said the awarding of the loans cannot start until all applications are signed and submitted.

He said that Helb is processing the 104,906 online applications received by the September 8 deadline. About 74,541 were signed while 29 per cent were in breach of the signature rule.

“We may rush to award loans and leave out needy students and that is what we do not want,” said Mr Ringera, noting that the students are likely to start receiving their loans in the last week of October.

The freshers joined university in September.

Most of the students come from poor backgrounds and require financial assistance to meet their tuition fees and upkeep. The underfunding has prompted protests from students in recent years.

Mr Ringera is appealing to the applicants to submit duly signed application forms to enable the processing of loans to start.

“With the above numbers we hope to fund slightly over 80,000 first time applicants at a total cost of around Sh3.3 billion,” said Mr Ringera. Helb has already paid 155,000 continuing students half of their annual allocation, he said.

There has been a sharp rise in enrolment of students at public universities, straining resources at Helb whose capitation has been growing at a slower pace.

Enrolment in public universities has increased from 195,528 to 427, 034 last year while private varsities increased the numbers from 54,459 to 85,889 in the same period.

Helb is facing a bigger crisis as the government plans to sponsor students in private universities.

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