Allow banks to supplement funding for college education, say VCs

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A number of vice-chancellors now want funding for university education to be provided by banks under a simplified scheme to benefit more students.

This follows revelations that the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) is unable to fund more than 75,000 first-year students due to cash flow constraints.

Professor Stephen Kiamah (University of Nairobi) and his Mount Kenya counterpart Professor Deogratius Jaganyi said that depending on the government budget to adequately fund hundreds of thousands of students was a long opportunity given the many priorities he has.

Speaking after taking part in the O3 awareness walk to raise awareness about gender-based violence (GBV), sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and mental health on the university’s main campus from Mount Kenya in the town of Thika, dons said banks were willing lenders and through partnering with governments they could reach many students with cheap loans.

Professor Kiamah said the government needed to develop new models for funding students to invest adequately in higher education.

He said banks never go bankrupt and can adequately fund students to access low interest loans compared to the current lender, Helb, which has faced financial constraints, adding that they also had elaborate loan recovery mechanisms in relation to Helb.

“Slowly the government budget for Helb was overtaken by the many students who sought higher education over the years. As stakeholders, we need new funding models to attract so many students. This requires greater stakeholder involvement, otherwise, if we don’t invest in university education, we risk losing our future,” he said.

Professor Jaganyi called on the government to reprioritize its budget to adequately fund Helb so that all deserving students get student loans.

He said student financial difficulties were a recipe for depression among university students and needed to be addressed as a priority.

“We must redefine our budgetary priorities to finance as many students as possible in higher education. As universities, we offer few scholarships, but we cannot reach everyone. It is the government’s responsibility to provide education for its citizens,” Prof Jaganyi said.

Helb’s inability to fund the students caused an uproar among the college fraternity and other stakeholders.

The lender said freshmen who joined in September would have to wait for the Treasury to offer it Ksh 3 billion for the initial disbursement.

The students, mostly from poor households, said it would be a difficult semester, with some saying they might postpone their studies due to financial constraints.

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