Why Kaimosi University wants students to defer studies
Hundreds of students at the newly chartered Kaimosi Friends University (Kafu) in Vihiga County, are staring at mass suspension of their studies over failure to pay fees.
This follows the lapse of the February 3, 2023, deadline, as well as the extension to February 10, for students to clear fee arrears or defer their studies.
Senior Assistant Registrar Jane Amunga said the students who failed to beat the deadlines were given a window period of up to March 24 to formally defer their studies.
The move comes at a time some 140,000 students in public universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges have missed government loans after the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) said it had run out of cash.
The call to defer studies is adding to a myriad challenges students are facing, among them raising alternative funds for tuition, accommodation and upkeep.
"The students who were unable to complete fee payment on time and had received Helb allocation, which was insufficient to clear the (fee) balance, should have deferred by February 10, 2023,” Dr Amunga said, and asked the affected students to comply by March 24.
The notice is copied to all the deans and pinned on the students' notice boards.
The fee payment challenge could be affecting majority of students and could lead to see many not complete their courses.
On Wednesday, Helb told Parliament that the students will have to wait till the Treasury releases Sh5.7 billion for onward disbursement to them after it admitted it had run out of money.
The majority of loan applicants come from poor households and require financial support from Helb to pay for their tuition and upkeep.
“Currently we have 140,000 students in TVets and universities that we have not been able to fund to the tune of Sh5.7 billion because we have run out of the budget,” said Helb chief executive Charles Ringera.
Getting tougher by the day
The delayed disbursement means that the students, most of them first-years, will have to find alternative means of paying for tuition, accommodation and upkeep as they await government funding, or worse, defer studies.
In the current financial year, 2022/23, Helb was allocated Sh14.8 billion to finance students based on their economic backgrounds.
A successful loan applicant receives between Sh35,000 and Sh60,000 a year.
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.
Helb is supposed to be a revolving fund in which beneficiaries who have completed studies pay back to support a fresh group of students.
This has, however, not been the case in an economic setting that is plagued by a hiring freeze on the back of sluggish corporate earnings.
“Every month we collect around Sh400 million from former loanees, which we add to the quarterly disbursements by Treasury to service applications by ongoing students,” Mr Ringera told the National Assembly Public Investments Committee on Education and Governance.
The first Treasury disbursement is normally expected around August each year, which is a month before universities and colleges open in September.
“The quarter exchequer release is about Sh3 billion, while what Helb has collected by that time is Sh1.2 billion, totalling to around Sh4.2 billion, which is way below the Sh7 billion required to adequately service loan applications,” Mr Ringera said.
Every Six months
To address the mismatch, Helb and the Treasury signed a deal where disbursements will be made every six months rather than every four months.
Helb has over the years struggled to meet the rising demand for loans after the number of government-sponsored students in public universities grew at the fastest rate in five years.
Over the past five years, nearly all the students who scored C+ and above were admitted to the regular university programmes, meaning they qualified for Helb loans.
But while speaking in Kisii on Thursday, President William Ruto announced that Helb had been furnished with funds that can last for two weeks.