Private universities have started increasing tuition fees for government-sponsored students that they host, setting them up for a clash with the Ministry of Education.
The institutions including the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) and Daystar University have increased fees by up to Sh20,000 per semester for the new students who will join in September.
Sources in the admissions and finance departments of CUEA and Daystar University who are, however, not authorised to speak to the Press have confirmed the fee increment on Friday.
The move looks set to trigger a clash with the ministry that declared the increments illegal due to lack of consultations.
Daystar University increased fees for the government-sponsored students by an average of Sh17,000 for those reporting in September while learners joining CUEA will pay up to Sh20,000 more based on a degree course.
Students who elect to join private universities receive a government sponsorship of at least Sh70,000 annually depending on the course they are pursuing.
The shift was expected to be a big win for private universities and colleges that had for years complained that the admission agency denied them the opportunity to get top students to their institutions.
“They are not supposed to increase the fees, it is against the agreement signed years ago when placement of government-sponsored students in private universities started,” Education Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi said in a response to Business Daily.
“Let affected students write to us then we pick it up because this (increment) is an illegality.”
The government has set fees paid by government-sponsored students at Sh16,000, which is equivalent to the charges in public universities.
Since 2016 when the system was introduced, the private universities have enrolled 47,548 students.
Students joining CUEA to pursue an undergraduate course in Law will pay Sh46,000 per semester up from Sh24,500 while those joining to take Education and Business will pay Sh39,500 up from 24,500.
Under the arrangement, the government pays more than half per unit cost while the students, parents and universities foot the remaining costs.
The placement of government-sponsored students in private universities is to address congestion in public institutions of higher learning.
The admissions department of CUEA could not explain the reasons behind the increment, only saying it was a decision made by the authorities while Daystar attributed the rise to the high cost of living.
The increments look set to pile more pressure on households that are grappling with squeezed budgets due to the increased cost of living amid struggles to recover from the economic meltdown of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kenya’s inflation hit a 58-month high in June at 7.9 percent on soaring food and fuel prices, breaching the government’s upper limit ceiling of 7.5 percent for the first time in nearly five years.
Besides the costs, the institutions say the delays in receiving the government’s share of the fees has put pressure on their operations.
Vice-chancellors/chief executives of public universities have been pushing the State to allow them to increase tuition fees to ease the cash flow hitches.
The institutions have targeted new students for the fee increments to ease opposition from continuing learners. But the Ministry of Education has several times turned down requests by universities to increase tuition fees in the wake of funding shortfalls from the Treasury and the increased cost of living.
Some of the universities have had to sell assets like buildings, close some of their satellite campuses and scrap some courses in a bid to cut operational costs.
The cash-flow hitches have left the institutions struggling to honour obligations such as payroll taxes, retirement benefits, insurance premiums for employees and payment for contractors and suppliers.
They have outstanding remittances to the Kenya Revenue Authority, the National Health Insurance Fund, the National Social Security Fund, pension schemes, insurance companies and saccos.
CUEA and Daystar University are the latest universities to raise tuition fees after the University of Nairobi (UoN) in a bid to ease the financial woes.
UoN more than doubled fees for undergraduate students who joined in September last year despite the recent public pressure on the institution to reverse the decision.
The institution also increased fees for postgraduate students, prompting court cases to reverse the decisions.
New undergraduate students who joined UoN to pursue medical courses in September last year have been paying Sh59,000 from Sh26,500, making the increment the highest for new students at the university.