Students from wealthy families will pay more for their education at public universities in the latest push to ease a biting cash crisis at institutions and reduce reliance on the Treasury.
The Universities Funding Board (UFB) – the state agency that guides the allocation of student funds to universities – is pushing for a cut in government funding for the children of the wealthy in colleges.
The review will also affect government-sponsored students at private universities who receive at least Sh70,000 per year depending on the course they take, regardless of their income status.
The government is expected to pay 80% of the cost of degrees per student under the current funding model, with learners at public universities paying around 28,000 shillings a year. The funding council, with support from the Treasury and the university’s vice-chancellors, wants stipends reviewed to reflect students’ income status.
Public universities have struggled financially in recent years due to rapid expansion amid weaker public funding and a sharp decline in enrollment in self-sponsored programs after the government opted to fully fund students obtaining the minimum entry grade C+ and above in Kenya. Secondary School Certificate Examinations (KCSE).
Students enrolled in parallel courses have over the years generated billions of shillings for the institutions, as they pay the full cost of programs that exceed 600,000 shillings per year for those like medicine.
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Now, the UFB and the vice-chancellors want students from well-to-do families to pay all or a larger share of the cost of degrees, starting next year.
“This guidance note recommends a gradual introduction of targeted tuition-free to shift the burden of financing higher education to needy and bright students only,” UFB says.
“Evidence has shown that a number of households in Kenya, particularly those in the middle and upper income quotients, may not need financial assistance to send their children to university.”
The state will have students vetted by the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) when funds are disbursed, with the wealthy locked out.
Researchers cite scenarios where parents pay Sh175,000 per year for a student at Kabarak Primary School, and more than Sh200,000 in the facility’s secondary schools and less than Sh50,000 in their university section under government sponsorship.
Kenya will follow in the footsteps of Uganda, which seeks to prevent the children of the rich from obtaining government funding for degrees from public universities.
State support per student has fallen from 80% of the cost of the degree to 48% currently due to increased enrolment.
The decline has reduced the flow of state funds to struggling public universities, forcing some of the institutions to cut classes, close campuses as well as resort to pay cuts and hiring freezes.
The funding council estimates that the funding gap for government-sponsored students at public universities will reach 96.27 billion shillings in the year ending next June, up from the current 27 billion shillings.
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In the 2020/21 financial year, 87.317 billion shillings were needed to fully fund the 434,631 government-sponsored students in universities, but the Treasury released only 47.39 billion shillings, leaving universities with a hole of 39.91 billion shillings.
UFB says 20.1 billion shillings are needed to fully fund students who took their KCSE exam last year and another 30.68 billion shillings will be needed to pay those who will take their national exams next month.
The Treasury in May rejected requests for additional funding from institutions, with the University of Nairobi demanding an additional 13.8 billion shillings.
Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani has called on universities to review public funding for students, freeze hiring and increase tuition fees paid by learners.
“Review university fees and charges paid by students…and the differentiated unit cost criteria that are used to determine funding allocated to universities,” Yatani said.
The vice-chancellors have reignited the petition to raise tuition fees at public universities in their latest effort to keep the institutions afloat.
A note from the Ministry of Education reveals the pressure of the best university administrators for an upward revision of fees at the start of the next academic year.
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