Boost For HELB, University Education in Ruto's Maiden Budget

Boost For HELB, University Education in Ruto’s Maiden Budget

President William Ruto’s plan to revamp the university sector received a major boost with an allocation of Sh128.5 billion in this year’s budget.

In the budget, allocation to the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) and research and innovation has been doubled.

The amount is an all-time high in support of the higher education sector and will be divided among three key institutions.

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Some Sh97.5 billion will be channelled to the institutions to support students under government sponsorship and those who will be admitted this September under the new funding formula.

This is an increase from up from Sh91.2 billion in the last budget.

To support student loans, funding to the Helb has also doubled from the previous allocation of Sh15.8 billion to Sh30.3 billion.

The increase hints at the support towards the new university funding model that will give more emphasis on providing student loans to those who qualify for university education.

  The budget presented by Treasury CS Njuguna Ndung’u on Thursday indicated the government’s keen interest in the new funding model and the establishment of the Open University of Kenya.

“The government has introduced a new funding model for higher education that will make universities and technical institutions fully inclusive financially, self-sufficient, and also capable of competing with their peers globally while contributing to our national social economic agenda,” Ndung’u said.

The new funding model takes effect this September with the 2022 KCSE candidates standing as the pioneer cohort to benefit from the new funding model.

Under the model, the government dropped the funding of all students who qualify to join university and will now provide support depending on the level of financial need the student will require.

The level of need will be assessed through eight key indicators such as the financial background of the student and the school they previously attended.

Kenya’s first virtual university will also roar to life after the government indicated a plan to provide a charter to kick-start the project at the end of June.

The project is dubbed the National Open University of Kenya and its conception dates back to 2016, but its actualisation has remained sluggish.

The institution seeks to eliminate the tradition of on-campus classes as teaching and learning will be conducted online or remotely. This is projected to allow more students to access university education locally and internationally.

Ndung’u indicated the plan to jump-start the stalled project revealing the institution will receive a charter – the first step to fully legitimise its operation – at the end of June.

The CS said the establishment of the open university will make the cost of university education “inexpensive, affordable, accessible, inclusive and attainable to all.”

Previously, university technocrats have touted the open university as a key to opening the university sector to a wider pool of students in particular international students from within the continent.

University funding board chief executive, Geoffrey Monari said this will provide flexibility in the time and place for learning and allow students to access university education at their convenience by use of modern technology.

“This project will ease the pressure exerted on physical facilities in universities and remove the rigidity in terms of need to attend classes at fixed places and within a specific time frame,” Monari said.

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