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By KIARIE NJOROGE, gnjoroge@ke.nationmedia.com

Posted  Monday, May 2   2016 at  19:28

The Treasury has raised the allocation to the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) to Sh9.1 billion for the year starting July, an amount the students financing agency says is inadequate.

This is a 21 per cent rise on the Sh7.5 billion allocated to Helb in the current year, which saw First Year students who joined university last September get their cash in January this year, halfway through the academic year.

“The entire budget we are looking at is about Sh10.2 billion,” Charles Ringera, the Helb chief executive said.

“We are waiting for the processing of applications to universities and colleges to be completed which will give us an indication of how many students we’ll process.”

Enrolment to public universities will increase by nearly 7,000 students from September, setting the stage for a funding crisis.

About 74,389 students who sat their KCSE exams last year have been selected to join public universities, up from 67,790 last year and 53,010 in 2014.

The under-funding has prompted protests from students in recent years and this year the Treasury topped up the Helb allocation with Sh1.5 billion through the mini-budget tabled in Parliament last week.

READ: Helb plans lottery to raise more cash for student loans

Offering Helb more money through the supplementary budget has become a standard practice and its allocation could jump above the Sh10 billion mark if the trend is maintained in the coming financial year.

The loans agency last year also cut the highest allocation per student to Sh50,000 from Sh60,000 per academic year for freshmen who joined university last year.

Most of the students come from poor backgrounds and require financial assistance to meet tuition fees and upkeep. Official data shows that public universities had 363,334 students last year, up from 195,528 in 2012.

Helb has also stepped up recovering money from past students to plug the funding gap. Mr Ringera said that this year they expect to recover about Sh3.5 billion with the amount projected to rise to Sh4 billion in the year beginning July.

Helb has employed a number of strategies to boost recoveries including amnesties and blacklisting defaulters through credit reference bureaus.

Auditor-General Edward Ouko said helb was unlikely to recover Sh24.6 billion from past beneficiaries of loans, deepening the agency’s funding crisis and weakening its ability to support fresh students joining universities.

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