Expanded role for higher education loans board

Kenya’s Higher Education Loans Board, or HELB, is to transform into a major ‘development financing institution for human capital’, with an expanded mandate of loaning money to all students wishing to pursue post-secondary education in local or foreign institutions.

Traditionally HELB has only financed students in public universities in Kenya.

Now the board is seeking consultants to help it review laws, regulations and all statutes governing its operations, with a view to coming up with a draft law that will see it morph into a financier of human capital development.

This follows the recommendations of a taskforce appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta a year ago to review the operations of state corporations, with a view to making them more efficient in delivering public services.

The team led by the president’s adviser on legal and constitutional affairs, Abdikadir Mohammed, recommended merging, scrapping or strengthening parastatals, with HELB falling in the latter category.

In a notice posted on the HELB website on 11 July, Chief Executive Charles Ringera said it was seeking firms to submit expressions of interest in helping the board to improve and enhance the provision of services to Kenyans “through a streamlined legal framework, institutional restructuring and policy documentation”.

The objective was to review the HELB Act, draft a bill and formulate regulations to convert HELB into a ‘development finance institution for human capital development’.

Among other objectives, the board added, the consultancy will conduct a legislative audit and research on existing laws relating to higher education and draft legislation to realign the HELB Act 213A of 1995 to conform with the taskforce report and its expanded roles.

Under the 1995 Act, HELB was mandated to finance needy learners in local public universities, but not students enrolled in technical and vocational education and training, or TVET, or in private institutions.

But under the Universities Act and the TVET Act – both passed by parliament in June 2012 – students in both sectors may be entitled to loans from the board, along with students enrolling in private institutions in Kenya or in foreign universities recognised by the Commission for University Education, the higher education regulator.

It is in seeking to finance the additional categories of students as well and those enrolled in local private institutions that the board needs to change laws, regulations and statutes.

The state corporations taskforce found the board could not execute its envisioned mandate in its current form and recommended its transformation to a well-funded financing institution, so long as student beneficiaries were attending universities and colleges properly registered and accredited by the relevant authorities.

It is hoped that a draft bill will be ready for tabling in parliament by November, so that the board will have its roles enhanced by March 2015.