Only 72,000 admitted to public and private universities to benefit from the Sh3.2 billion

Barclays Bank MD Jeremy Awori hands over a dummy cheque for the Barclays Scholarship Programme to Helb CEO Charles Ringera, on Tuesday. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The scramble for Sh3.2 billion higher education loans kicks off today as the agency starts processing applications from 100,000 applicants.

Saturday Standard has established that only 72,000 students who sat last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) will be considered for loans this year.

This means of the 88,626 candidates who scored C+ and above in last year’s KCSE, some 16,626 will miss out on the loans.

Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) has allocated 71,089 students to public universities and another 17,368 students to private institutions.

Overall, a total of 28,000 students who submitted their applications to Helb by close of business yesterday will miss out on the loans.

Helb Chief Executive Officer Charles Ringera said payment to successful first time applicants will begin in early October.

Ringera said the applications for loans will begin because some of the loan requests were made by candidates who did not apply last year for lack of identification cards.

“They have acquired the identification cards and have made applications,” he said.

Helb will give loans to a record 30,000 students pursuing various diploma programmes in middle-level colleges. Last year, only 20,000 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) students were considered.

This means the agency will take in an additional 10,000 TVET students this year.

TVET first time and subsequent loan and bursary online applications opened on August 22, and will go on until October 31. “This is an ambitious programme. For the first time, we are giving loans to such a huge number,” said Ringera.

He said some Sh1.5 billion has been set aside to cater for 60,000 TVET students.

In total, some 28,261 students were selected by KUCCPS to pursue diploma programmes across all the 70 tertiary colleges. For continuing students, some 151,000 are being considered for loans at a cost of Sh6.2 billion. “We have already funded half of these students at a cost of Sh3.2 billion. We fund them as they resume classes,” said Ringera.

Overall, the agency will be giving loans to some 294,000 students at a cost of Sh13.2 billion by June next year, said Ringera.

This, he said, is about 44 per cent of the total number of students enrolled in institutions of higher learning.

Helb strives to fund at least 40 per cent of students enrolled in higher education, including TVET colleges.

In the last four years, the government has increased allocation to Helb from Sh2.6 billion in 2012/13 to Sh7.7 billion in 2017/18.

Since its inception two decades ago, Helb has supported over 620,000 students to pursue higher education at a total cost of Sh65 billion.

In the last financial year, it funded 244,000 students in universities and TVET colleges at a total cost of Sh10 billion.

Of these, Ringera said, 36,600 came from extremely challenged economic background, prompting the board to extend a further Sh254 million in form of bursaries to support the students in various institutions.

“We continue to see strong growth in demand for Helb loan product as the expansion of Higher Education continues to take place,” said Ringera.

Higher education sector analysts say the demand for loans has been lifted by the continued improvement from basic to higher education.

The transition rates have been improving from primary to secondary to a record 87 per cent while that of secondary to institutions of higher learning recording slightly above 60 per cent.

Ringera appealed to Kenyans to repay their loans to enable the agency fund more students.

“Loan repayment is the only way the Fund can be sustainable in the long run and enable us take in more students,” said Ringera.

Since 1974, some 320,290 loan accounts worth Sh40 billion have matured for repayment, while 209,351 loanees holding Sh20 billion have not matured.

“To date, a total of 111,543 loanees have completed loan repayment valued at Sh11 billion,” said Ringera.

He said the board has recovered loans worth Sh31 billion, with Sh4.2 billion recovered in 2016/17.