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Economy

Funding crisis as nearly 60,000 join public universities

A student fills in registration forms at the University of Nairobi last year. Photo/SALATON NJAU
A student fills in registration forms at the University of Nairobi last year. Photo/SALATON NJAU  

A funding crisis is looming at the public universities after the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) raised the red flag that it has no money to cater for nearly 60, 000 students set to be admitted this year.

The board says the cash allocation it will receive from the Treasury from July is only enough to sponsor students already in the institutions and that more money would be needed for freshers.

The alert comes as the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (Kuccps) lowered the university entry requirements for those who sat last year’s Form Four national examination, buoyed by the approval of new degree courses and the setting up of new universities.

It has lowered the minimum entry requirements for male students at B grade of 60 points and B- of 58 points for females.

Last year, the minimum grade was set at 61 points and 59 for male and female students respectively, which saw 53,010 freshmen gain entry to public universities.

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“The students currently in second to fourth year of their education are consuming about Sh5.5 billion per year meaning that we will need more money for students joining the scheme as from October,” said Helb chief executive Charles Ringera.

“Our estimate is that we will approve 70,000 new applications this year and that these students will require Sh2.4 billion in loans.

This is the funding deficit that we will soon be facing.” Budget estimates released on April 30 indicate that the government has set aside Sh5.7 billion to sponsor students in public institutions of higher learning.

This included Sh2.4 billion recoveries from past student loanees and Treasury allocation of Sh3.34 billion — the same as last year.

About 55,000 candidates scored a mean grade of B and above in last year’s Form Four examination, and sources at  Kuccps say that the admission of B- students will see the admission rise to nearly 60,000.

These are the first admissions done by Kuccps, which replaced the Joint Admissions Board (JAB) in February, and the new students face higher tuition fees as the government plans first review since 1995. Students currently pay Sh26, 000 per year.

Official data shows that both public universities had 276,349 students last year, up from 195,528 in 2012. This has put pressure on the government to create new jobs for the graduates whose number stood at 62,000 in 2002.

Degree courses approved by the Commission for University Education rose from 160 in 2012 to 362 in 2013.

The Ministry of Education upgraded 13 colleges to universities including Maasai Mara, University of Eldoret, Pwani, and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

Analysts have blamed the upgrades of the mid-tier colleges for the reduced number of graduates with technical skills required to boost Kenya’s industrial sector.

This has seen the country witness a rise in graduates with liberal arts degrees in a job market that is already saturated.

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