Today KCB and the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) launched a student smart card which is aimed at making the process of loan disbursement easier. HELB will be discounting the use of bank accounts to access loans for students from June 2015 so students are advised to get their cards in time so as not to miss out on their HELB loans.
The new card is a Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled card which is a digital wallet. For the KCB HELB card which has 12 wallets students will be able to access tuition, General purpose (pocket money) and upkeep (accommodation and meals). The wallets will be locked meaning that students will not be able to use their tuition money to buy meals or alcohol as they have previously done but this particular wallet will be used only to pay University fees. The upkeep money will be used to pay for services at the university by swiping the cards. The only money the students will be able to do what they want with is the general purpose money. The students can access this cash through KCB branches, Mtaani and MPESA agents. The card will also be used as a photo ID for student identification.
The smart card will allow timely disbursement of loans and will eliminate errors that students have experienced in the past when they give wrong bank details. According to the HELB Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Charles Ringera it will also teach students responsible financial management as they will have to use the funds responsibility. He says that the board has had a challenge of recovering up to Kshs. 11Billion from defaulting students. The loans over time equating to KShs. 14Billion.
The new card will help to maximize loan recovery, and promote access to finances to students pursuing higher education. The KCB HELB card interfaces with HELB, the university systems and also the approved banks. It can also be used by the universities as a library card among other things as it has 12 wallets.
Mr. Ringera also said they are putting together an ambassador program where people can bring in defaulters and get a certain amount of commission. Part of the defaulters they are targeting are those students who moved to the diaspora and those who have never started paying off their loans
KCB Group CEO, Mr. Joshua Oigara said that the cashlite card would offer students a convenient way of accessing their funds as they have over 240 branches and over 10,100 agents. The smart card will enhance convenience, security, accessibility and efficiency as well as accountability process. Mr. Oigara said that the bank is committed to partnerships, collaborations and the digitization of services. The cashlite card is part of a continuing innovative process and it has already been changed 3 times to meet the demands of the institutions and students.
The government is in the process of automating its services and fees and the smart card is a key part of the process of making HELB deliver better services to its stakeholders. The smart card may make life easier for students as they will not have to wait for money to be put into their bank accounts.
It still remains to be seen whether students will embrace this new concept of financial management where they will not be able to use HELB funds as they wished but will now only control a small portion of the money that HELB will disburse as the money for tuition will not be directly in their hands as it was before.