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Economy

Freshers to get Helb funding on time

Education secretary Amina Mohamed with  Higher Education Loans Board chief executive Charles Ringera
Education secretary Amina Mohamed with Higher Education Loans Board chief executive Charles Ringera during a press briefing in August. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

University freshers will for the first time in many years get government financing in the first semester after the Treasury released Sh10.1 billion for student loans, the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) has said.

Helb chief executive Charles Ringera said government-sponsored first-years joining universities and continuing students would get funds on reporting.

This is a break from recent years when the cash has delayed for many months, forcing the students to pay for tuition and accommodation from own pockets, a situation that exposes them to poor living conditions including being housed in unsafe informal settlements.

Mr Ringera said the about 64,700 freshers, who started reporting for the first academic year this week out of the 69,151 students who qualified to join public and private universities, have been allocated Sh2.8 billion.

This means 4,451 qualified students have missed out on the cheaper Helb funding.

An estimated 164,000 continuing students have, on the other hand, been allocated Sh6.9 billion, while 4,000 postgraduate ones have a budget of Sh400 million.

“Of the 164,000 continuing students, we have already paid 90,000 at Sh1.9 billion who have opened for first semester. We are paying as they open,” he said.

The lowest beneficiary of the loans will get Sh42,000 while vulnerable orphans will receive up to Sh60,000 and a bursary of Sh8,000, he added.

The students are, however, required to use smart cards to access the funds to reduce wastage of the loans on other expenditures other than tuition and accommodation.

Mr Ringera said universities had been earlier directed to ensure the students have the cards by this month.

“The cards will ensure effective and efficient management of funds that have been invested in the education sector,” he said.

The Treasury has also allocated Sh6 billion for the about 150,000 students who are joining the enhanced technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions from this month.

Mr Ringera said disbursement of cash to the students under the Afya Elimu Fund (largely nursing trainees) will start on September 15 while cash processing for first-time applicants was ongoing.

Loan applications for the students admitted under the TVET programmes, which is capped at Sh40,000 per student, will close on October 31.

“A line for this special category has been provided by the Treasury,” the Helb boss said.

The Helb has advanced Sh84 billion in loans to 671,448 beneficiaries since its establishment.

About 396,329 loan accounts with Sh47 billion are due for repayments while 275,119 loanees holding Sh37.1 billion have not matured and are still being serviced.

The Helb said 190,554 loanees have cleared Sh18.2 billion in repayments while another 144,075 loanees are servicing Sh22.1 billion in loans.

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