University students will get Sh44,000 loan to buy laptops under a project proposed by the Higher Education Loans Board, the Star has established.

On Thursday, Helb chief executive officer Charles Ringera, who introduced the idea, told the Star that the board is awaiting the Treasury to approve the economic stimulus package to begin the process of providing the loans.

For a start, the project is for half of those joining university as first years – at least 61,000. The laptop project is estimated to cost about Sh2.5 billion.

While making the proposal to Parliament in November, Ringera said those to benefit will be the most-needy from the ‘freshers pool.’

Postgraduate and diploma students will not be eligible.

Since the onset of Covid-19, a number of universities have adopted online learning.

Many students, however, cannot afford computers and some depend on gadgets such as mobile phones to attend the online sessions. Using a phone is limiting.

Ringera said not only will the provision of laptops aid in online learning, but it will also help students to work online and get an income.

Stephen Kiama, the University of Nairobi vice-chancellor, praised the project as timely.

He said the devices will enable institutions to offer more online courses.

“This will greatly reduce operating expenses and will be more flexible for students who might not be able to physically attend class sessions,” Kiama told the Star on the phone.

Student Loans

The laptop loan request comes at a time when public universities are pushing for an increment of fees from the current Sh16,000 to Sh48,000.

Ringera said increased fees will mean increased loans advanced to students.

He said Helb has requested an estimated Sh6.2 billion to cover the shortfall witnessed this year.

The increased fees will mean the board will require Sh14 billion to allow students to borrow, Ringera said.

He said that because of the pandemic, Helb has been forced to lower the loan amounts offered to students from Sh45,000 to Sh37,000.

Helb estimates show a student needs an annual budget of about Sh200,000 to be comfortable.

“Given that Helb currently provides about Sh37,000, that means students or households have to raise another Sh162,000,” Ringera said. 

Source: The Star