Students from rich families to pay more university fees


Maseno University first-year students take a selfie with Vice Chancellor Julius Nyabundi during the freshers’ orientation day on September 22, 2022. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NMG

Students from rich families will pay more for their education in public universities in the latest push to ease a biting cash crunch in the institutions and cut reliance on the Treasury.

The University Funding Board (UFB)—the State agency that guides allocations of student funds to universities--is pushing for a cut on government funding for children of the rich at universities.

The review will also affect government-sponsored students in private universities who receive at least Sh70,000 annually depending on the course they are pursuing irrespective of their income status.

The government is expected to pay 80 percent of the cost of degrees per student under the current funding model, with the learners in public universities paying about Sh28,000 annually. The funding board, with the backing of the Treasury and university vice-chancellors, wants the allocations reviewed to reflect the students’ income status.

Public universities have come under financial strain in recent years as a result of rapid expansion amid lower State funding and a sharp fall in enrolment on self-sponsored programmes after the government opted to fully fund students scoring the minimum C+ entry grade and above in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams.

Students enrolling for the parallel degree courses had over the years generated billions of shillings for the institutions because they pay the full cost of programmes that top over Sh600,000 annually for those like medicine.

Read: Proposed fee hike will lock us out of class, say students

Now, UFB and vice-chancellors want students from wealthy families to pay the full or a larger share of the cost of degrees, starting with next year’s intake.

“This policy brief recommends a gradual introduction of targeted free tuition to shift the burden of higher education funding to only needy and bright students,” UFB says.

“Evidence has shown that a number of households in Kenya, especially those in the middle and upper income quotients, may not require any financial support to put their children through university education.”

The State will have students vetted by the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) when disbursing funding, with the rich locked out.

Scholars cite scenarios where parents pay Sh175,000 annually for a pupils in Kabarak Primary School, and over Sh200,000 in the institution’s secondary schools and less than Sh50,000 at their university section under government sponsorship.

Kenya will follow in the footsteps of Uganda, which is seeking to block children of the rich from getting government funding for degrees in public universities.

State support per student has dropped from 80 percent of the cost of degree to the current 48 percent on the back of increased enrolment.

The drop reduced the flow of State funds to the troubled public universities, forcing some of the institutions to scrap courses, shut down campuses as well as resort to pay cuts and hiring freezes.

The funding board estimates that the funding gap for government-sponsored students in public universities will hit Sh96.27 billion in the year ending next June, from the current Sh27 billion.

Also read: Will portal restore varsities' financial sanity?

In the 2020/21 financial year, Sh87.317 billion was required to fully fund the 434,631 government-sponsored students at the universities but the Treasury only released Sh47.39 billion, leaving the universities with a hole of Sh39.91 billion.

UFB says that Sh20.1 billion is needed to fully finance students who sat their KCSE exam last year and a further Sh30.68 billion will be required to pay for those writing their national examinations next month.

The Treasury in May rejected requests for additional funding to the institutions, with University of Nairobi demanding an extra Sh13.8 billion.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani asked the universities to review the State funding of the students, put a freeze on hiring and raise the out-of-pocket fees paid by the learners.

“Review university fees and charges paid by students…and the Differentiated Unit Cost criteria which is used to determine the funding allocated to universities,” Mr Yatani said.

The vice-chancellors have revived the petition to increase tuition fees in public universities in their latest efforts to keep the institutions afloat.

A memo from the Education ministry reveals the push by the top university administrators for the upward review of fees in the next intake.

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