Freshmen face longer wait as Helb delays loans

Thursday October 13 2016

Helb chief executive officer Charles Ringera. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA

Helb chief executive officer Charles Ringera. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA 

By KIARIE NJOROGE, [email protected]

Thousands of government-sponsored university freshmen will wait longer for their student loans after the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) delayed disbursement by another month.

The agency says about 43 per cent of the first-years who expressed interest in the loans are yet to submit the final forms to allow for cash processing.

Helb requires at least 90 per cent of the applications before deciding on the student’s loan amount in a financing environment where it is struggling to meet the learners’ financial needs.

Helb chief executive Charles Ringera said that they have moved the deadline for receiving the applications to October 21 from September 30 to accommodate the over 40,000 learners yet to submit their forms.

“Our target is that the last week of October we should be disbursing this money,” said Mr Ringera.

The delay has hit the freshmen hardest with the majority missing out on university accommodation.

The government has delinked admissions to the accommodation available, meaning that a sizable number of the freshmen will have missed out on cheap university hostels and are forced to source private housing.

The loan application is a two-step process. Students log onto the agency’s website and fill out a form, which they then download and print. The printed from is signed by the applicant, parents, lawyer and guarantors and submitted to the Helb.

Mr Ringera said 98,232 applications have been made online, but only 55,908 of the signed forms have been submitted.

Maseno University was the first to admit freshers on August 15 while Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) opened its doors to theirs on August 22.

Kenyatta University admitted its first-year students on August 29 while Moi University freshers reported on September 5.

Students pursuing science courses in the University of Nairobi were admitted on September 5 while those in humanities and social sciences will join in January 9, 2017.

“For now we are relying on our parents and relatives to survive,” Philip Ojowi, a first-year student at Karatina University said.

The Helb funds needy students to the tune of between Sh35,000 and Sh50,000 per year, based on their economic background. Of the total loan disbursed, Sh8, 000 is sent directly to the university as tuition fees and the balance to the beneficiary’s bank account in two equal tranches covering the first and second semesters.

The Helb is this year expected to spend up to Sh3.1 billion on the freshmen.

This is the second successive delay in disbursement of loans for freshers. First-year students who joined the higher education institutions last September got their cash in January this year, halfway through the academic year.

The Helb loans come at an interest rate of four per cent per year and beneficiaries are expected to start servicing them a year after graduation. Failure to do so attracts a penalty of Sh5,000 every month.