The plan to increase fees in public universities next year must have come as a shock to both students and parents. We urge the government to tread carefully on the planned fees hike.
According to the University Funding Board, the fees should be increased by 30 per cent to match universities’ needs and inflation over the past two decades.
Students who will be joining the public universities nest year will now be expected to pay annual fees of about Sh33,700 from the current Sh26,000.
It would be the first major increase of fees since the end of free university education in 1991 and the introduction of the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) in 1995.
Enrolment in local universities has sharply increased from 289,733 in 2014 to 479,312 by June this year.
While the government may argue that the public institutions charge low tuition fees compared to their private counterparts, the fact remains that many Kenyan families cannot even afford the current fees without assistance from the Helb.
Any plans to increase fees should ensure that the poor are not locked out of pursuing higher education.
It also doesn’t make sense to have free primary and secondary education yet the students cannot complete higher education.
The explanation that about some students who will be joining the institutions have been paying more for their secondary education and hence should not complain about the increase is rather lame.
Previous attempts to increase fees in the past have also led to unrest in the campuses.
What is needed is for our policymakers to go back to the drawing board and find a way of ensuring that our students are able to pursue higher education without funding hiccups.
The worst thing we can do is to discriminate against those from poor backgrounds from achieving their dreams of higher education.