Students Under 18 Struggle to Secure University Loans Ahead of Application Deadline

As the deadline for university loan applications looms, concerns are growing among thousands of students aged under 18 who fear they may miss out on access to the Higher Education Fund due to the requirement of identification cards. With just fifteen days remaining before the higher education funding portal closes, many students who are yet to receive their ID cards are facing complications in the application process, which necessitates entering their ID numbers on the portal.

The struggle to access the portal swiftly is compounded by the sheer volume of applicants, making it difficult for students to navigate the system. “The portal is lagging; you cannot access it. You have to wait until maybe 2 or 3 am because there are many people trying to access it during the day. After uploading documents, it doesn’t proceed to the next step. Sometimes you apply for scholarships, but they don’t go through, while the loan application process seems to work,” a frustrated applicant voiced.

The Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) has addressed concerns, assuring underage applicants that they will still be able to apply for scholarships and grants. However, the disbursement of loans will be deferred until the applicants reach the age of 18, aligning with legal requirements.

Yet, the challenges facing students extend beyond navigating the portal. Many aspiring university and TVET students do not possess identity cards due to their age, placing them at risk of missing out on loans for their first semester or year of study. Purity Kangai, a concerned parent, advocates for her daughter’s case. Similar stories echo across the nation, as young individuals like 17-year-old John Kerage from Kisii find their dreams of higher education in jeopardy. Lacking the financial resources to cover the Ksh.360,000 per year for the clinical medicine course, John’s aspirations hinge on securing government funding.

HELB’s CEO, Charles Ringera, emphasizes that no student, regardless of their ID status, will be locked out of accessing government funding. He estimates that the number of students affected is relatively small. “By the time they were sitting the KCSE exam, there were 2,200 students who did not have IDs,” Ringera explains.

For this specific group of students, both loans and scholarships remain within reach. However, the scholarship disbursement will precede loans, contingent upon providing valid identification. “The scholarship will be released to the universities, but the loan component for that student will be withheld until they supply the ID card. Many of them possess waiting cards, but the funds won’t be accessible until the ID is available on the iprs,” adds Ringera.

Approximately 60,000 applications for loans and scholarships have already been submitted via the financing portal, out of the 280,000 students placed in universities and TVETs. Despite the challenges, HELB emphasizes that it hasn’t reached the threshold required to categorize applicants into vulnerable, extremely needy, needy, and less needy bands. This categorization is pivotal in determining the level of funding each student will ultimately receive.

As the application deadline draws near, the government and relevant agencies are working diligently to ensure that all eligible students, regardless of age, have the opportunity to pursue higher education and build a brighter future for themselves.


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