Govt student loan scheme resumes

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery graduates celebrate during Makerere University’s 74th graduation ceremony on January 29. Needy students, who were left stranded following the suspension of the students’ loans scheme, can breathe a sigh of relief following the government’s decision to resume the programme. PHOTO/FRANK BAGUMA

What you need to know:

  • More than 1,000 students are set to benefit from the programme.

Needy students, who were left stranded following the suspension of the students’ loans scheme, can breathe a sigh of relief following the government’s decision to resume the programme.

In an interview with Monitor at the weekend, Mr Michael Wanyama, the executive director of the Higher Education Students’ Financing Board (HESFB), said the government had released more than Shs14b to finance the scheme.

The government suspended the scheme during the 2023/2024 academic year, only focusing on those who had already been registered for the scheme, due to budgetary shortfalls.

However, after consultations with a wide range of stakeholders including the Ministries of Finance and that of Education and Sports, HESFB was given the green light to ask for a supplementary budget to resume the scheme.   

“Parliament has approved a supplementary budget for us of Shs13.958b. Part of it will cater for domestic arrears while the balance of about Shs5b is to cater for the new cohort of learners for this academic year,” he said.

“It will enable us to take on about 1,100 students, using a unit cost of about Shs4.5m,” he added.
The supplementary budget was approved in December last year.

Mr Wanyama said majority of the beneficiaries will be those pursuing diploma and degree science courses, in selected universities and tertiary institutions, while a few slots will be reserved for students pursuing humanities.

“We have also opened space for a few courses in humanities, especially in the Hospitality and Tourism sector. Children with disabilities can also apply for the programmes they have been admitted for,” he said.

Higher Education Students Financing Board executive director Michael Wanyama appears before Cosase at Parliament on May 3, 2023. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

He called on learners to take advantage of the scheme, to access higher education.
Mr Wanyama said the application process, which will be done online and commences today, will run for two weeks to enable students to resume school as soon as possible.  

The HESFB board started implementing the student loans scheme in 2014 and has since supported about 13,400 beneficiaries with at least 11,393 acquiring undergraduate degrees and 2,012 obtaining undergraduate Diplomas programmes mainly in Science, Technology, and Math(STEM). Learners with special needs can access partial loans to pursue courses of their choice.

The economic hurdles faced by the country have seen the number of beneficiaries decline in some academic years.
According to HESFB, only 625 students benefited from the fund in 2022 as compared to 1,273 beneficiaries in 2014.

Mr John Twesigye, the chairperson of the parliamentary Education Committee, asked the HESFB to consider increasing the number of beneficiaries to at least 3,000 students per intake to bring more learners on board.

He said although the HESFB requested for additional funding last year, Parliament was considering increasing their budget, next financial year.

“Specifically in last year, what they wanted was additional money. Our plan is that Parliament increases their budget next financial year, to spread the scheme to more people doing Diploma programmes that the government has approved,” he said.

“This will depend on whether the issue will be rationalised, and how the policy will guide the management of that fund,” he added.
Mr James Kubeketerya, the vice chairperson of the Parliamentary Education Committee, said he was hopeful that the number of beneficiaries would increase when the national resource envelop improves.