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Budget plan may scupper loans for Kenyans abroad

Plans by Kenya’s Higher Education Loans Board to fund more than 10,000 students studying overseas may be in jeopardy, after it was announced the board has been allocated little over half the funding it requested in the upcoming year’s budget.

Kenya's Parliament Building, NairobiKenya's Parliament Building, Nairobi. The amount allocated to the Higher Education Loans Board may yet change before the final budget is tabled in parliament this summer. Photo: Flickr/Richard Portsmouth.

The proposed budget allocation for the Higher Education Loans Board is $100m less than it requested

The proposed budget allocation for HELB for the upcoming 2017/18 financial year, announced this month, stands at 10.1bn shillings ($100m), compared to the 19bn ($190m) the board had requested.

The funding would be used to fulfil a directive issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta towards the end of last year that all Kenyan students, including more than 10,000 studying abroad, should have access to loan funding to support tuition and living expenses.

“We are yet to hear the very final word in writing from the treasury”

Students had previously argued that they felt discriminated against by being excluded from the state student loan scheme, which is open to their counterparts studying at home, as well as those enrolled in universities within the East African region.

The board is currently in the process of crafting a policy that would guide the implementation of the presidential directive on funding of overseas students.

However, HELB’s recently announced budget of $100m calls into question whether these plans will be realised.

Though higher than 2016/17’s $91m budget allocation, the figure is $90m shy of the total the board projected that it would need to extend loans to the 200,000 students who currently access funding and to overseas students for the first time, as well as covering an increased loan bill for TVET students as the country works to train more skilled labour.

In its budget request to the treasury, HELB chief executive Charles Ringera said the money was also intended to support the implementation of a differentiated-cost system of funding, whereby the amount of funding students receives reflects the actual cost of their programme of study.

Ringera, however, remains optimistic that all is not lost, insisting that the current projections could still be reviewed at a later date by the government.

The amount allocated to HELB may yet be increased or cut further between now and July 1, when the national budget will be tabled in parliament for consideration and approval.

“We are yet to hear the very final word on the question of allocation in writing from the treasury, so we cannot say anything at the moment until we receive official communication,” a board spokesman told The PIE News.

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