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State-sponsored students increase fastest in four years

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A graduation ceremony at a public university. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Data from the University Funding Board (UFB) — the State agency that guides the allocation of cash for students— shows the population grew 23.2 percent to 324,182 in the year ending June from 271,446 last year.
  • Government funding for the students also hit a four-year high of Sh41.9 billion but still remains inadequate to fund the tuition costs of the learners.
  • Kenya cut the minimum entry grade for government-sponsored students from B+ to C+ in 2016 in a bid to allow more students to pursue university education on State sponsorship.

The number of government-sponsored students in public universities has grown at the fastest rate in four years as State funding neared the Sh42 billion mark.

Data from the University Funding Board (UFB) — the State agency that guides the allocation of cash for students— shows the population grew 23.2 percent to 324,182 in the year ending June from 271,446 last year.

Government funding for the students also hit a four-year high of Sh41.9 billion but still remains inadequate to fund the tuition costs of the learners.

The record rise is linked to the lowering of the entry mark to public universities to C+ for government-sponsored students five years ago.

This is the fastest growth rate in at least four years and the last time the growth was close to this high was a 19.4 percent rise in the year ended last June.

“The rise is attributed to the increased number of C+ and above admitted by KUCCPS to the universities,” said UFB chief executive Geoffrey Monari.

Kenya cut the minimum entry grade for government-sponsored students from B+ to C+ in 2016 in a bid to allow more students to pursue university education on State sponsorship.

The data shows that the University of Kabianga, University of Kirinyaga and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology posted sharp increases from last year.

The University of Kirinyaga posted a 70 percent jump to 7,978 students in the year ending June while the University of Kabianga recorded a rise of 64 percent to 7,914 students on government sponsorship.

The Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT) is the biggest gainer of the top five public universities with the population of State-funded students growing 52 percent to 24, 331 in the year ending this June.

The record rise in the population of State-sponsored students does not however match the allocation of funds to foot the tuition costs given that students’ number is a key factor in the sharing of State cash to public universities.

Public universities are facing a Sh27 billion funding gap for State-sponsored students in the year ending June at the back of Exchequer cuts as the country grapples with fast-maturing debts and perennial revenue shortfalls.

The University of Nairobi has already increased tuition fees in a bid to ease the cash crunch occasioned by inadequate funding from the Exchequer and a fall in the number of self-sponsored students.

The current funding formula that was adopted in 2017 uses students’ enrolment numbers and the courses they take to allocate funds.

The formula dubbed the differentiated unit cost (DUC) is a departure from the previous model where the government paid a flat rate of Sh70, 000 per academic programme per student.

Under DUC, universities offering courses such as medicine, dentistry, engineering, architecture and law receive more cash for tuition compared with those largely offering arts and humanities.

Kenya currently pays up to 80 percent of tuition fees for the students it sponsors in public universities while the students and their parents or guardians foot 20 percent of the costs.

University education in Kenya used to be free and the government bore the full cost until the introduction of the World Bank-backed cost-sharing model in public varsities in 1991.

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