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Africa: University students set to receive bigger loans

More than 80,000 university students will receive bigger loans and bursaries by September if their loans agency is awarded the Sh1.5 billion it is seeking from the Treasury.

The Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) said that despite the increase in the cost of living, the amount allocated to students has remained constant. It has, however, not yet revealed details of the new allocation per student. Currently, the minimum amount is Sh35,000 and the maximum is Sh60,000 depending on the socio-economic status of the student. The students are also awarded bursaries ranging between Sh3,000 and Sh8,000.

But the current unit cost per student of Sh120,000 per programme was calculated in 1995, where the government pays Sh70,000 per student, leaving Helb to supplement the rest. The lack of a review of the revenues has seen universities rely heavily on parallel degree programmes where self-sponsored students pay higher fees, supplementing the income of the institutions.

“Helb’s capitation on student loans and bursary has remained at Sh1.4 billion and Sh82.3 million, respectively, despite an increase in the cost of living and the number of students admitted into the universities,” says a report by the board. This has prompted public universities to increase enrolment of parallel degree programmes from 100,649 students in 2008 to 143,114 last year.

The report has recommended that Helb be allocated an additional Sh1.5 billion as it seeks to reverse the trend where more than 50 per cent of the student population in universities is on parallel degree programmes.

“This will ensure that loans, bursaries and scholarships awarded to students reflect the current economic status in the country and Helb will be in a position to meet the increasing demand for loans, bursaries and scholarships.”

This demand has been fuelled by Helb’s expansion of its capacity to offer loans and bursaries to Kenyan students in private universities, mid-level colleges within the East African Community. But the public universities, which have been its main province, have seen an increase in the number of students admitted for both the regular and self-sponsored programmes who seek loans and bursaries as well.

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