Solve funding hitch for private varsities’ students

Private universities make a significant contribution to increasing access to higher education for Kenyans. Since not everybody qualifies to join the few public universities, the private institutions come in handy.

The institutions have created opportunities for those who miss a place in the competitive public universities. Indeed, some are now competing favourably with their public counterparts in offering some courses.

But it has not been a bed of roses for the students joining the private universities. Some cannot afford the high tuition fees and other expenses. Those adversely affected include the beneficiaries of government sponsorship. Under a programme started in the 2018-2019 academic year, the government would place students in the private universities and meet part of their tuition fees.

Some have dropped out over the non-payment of fees. The universities are reportedly owed Sh31.4 billion. Indeed, Universities Fund CEO Geoffrey Monari has confirmed the debts with the Pending Bills Verification Committee at the National Treasury.

The Kenya Association of Private Universities has now written to Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu demanding payment. It has also asked for an increase of the funds allocated to the students for the 2024–2025 financial year.

However, the importance of these private institutions is underscored by the fact that, in the current Budget Policy Statement, they have been allocated Sh1,774,791,604 to fund government-sponsored students.

Another challenge is the quality of the teaching and learning. The Commission for University Education (CUE) established under the Universities Act, No. 42 of 2012, as the successor to the Commission for Higher Education, should look into this. It is the agency mandated to regulate university education.

These challenges should be ironed out to enable the private universities to play their part in boosting higher education to produce the high-level manpower the country needs for its development.