graduation money

The level of funding for each student will depend on several factors, which will be determined by the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) and the Universities Fund (UF). 

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Education for the rich: Concern as thousands set to miss out in new varsity funding model

What you need to know:

  • Universities have issued admission letters indicating the actual cost per programme without government funding.

University education will likely be out of reach for thousands of students who will miss out on government funding under the new financing model, as only those with deep pockets will afford it.

The students who will start reporting from early next month have until midnight, August 27, to apply for government funding which is broken down into scholarships, loans and bursaries.

Universities have issued admission letters indicating the actual cost per programme without government funding.

An analysis of various programmes in different universities indicates that some public universities are charging higher tuition fees than some private ones. The information was previously not disclosed to the public.

Whereas tuition fees have ideally not been increased per degree programme, the previous automatic government subsidy has been removed and students who miss the government scholarship and loans will have to pay the entire amount.

Also, the students have to apply for this tuition funding every year, with no guarantee of securing the funds on each application.

The level of funding for each student will depend on several factors, which will be determined by the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) and the Universities Fund (UF). The scholarships will be disbursed through UF while Helb is in charge of the loans.

For example, a student who has been admitted to Karatina University in Nyeri County for Bachelor of Education (Arts) will be required to pay Sh225,420 for the first year. In addition, the student will incur expenses for accommodation, meals and other living expenses.

“If all this is school fees, I would rather take my child to Uganda for her university studies. I cannot afford Sh1 million in four years for school fees,” said Sylvanus Kulula, a primary school teacher from Nambale in Busia County.

First-year students will report to the university on September 4 and Mr Kulula feels the time is too short to put everything together.

At the Technical University of Mombasa (TUM), a student admitted to study Bachelor of Science (Medical Engineering) will pay Sh302,940 for each of the five years of study.

Whereas the government insists that students who need financing will get it, there is apprehension over the method used to award the scholarships and the loans. The new model also increases the loan burden by the time of completing studies.

Many Kenyans are also still in the dark over the operationalisation of the financing model. Helb has been allocated Sh30 billion in the current financial year, with Sh15.9 billion being for first-year students.

Under the new model, students in the vulnerable category will get 82 per cent of the tuition amount as a scholarship and 18 per cent as a loan. Extremely needy students will be granted a government scholarship of 70 per cent, supplemented by a Helb loan of 30 per cent.

Those falling into the category of moderate need will receive a maximum of 53 per cent government scholarship, along with a 40 per cent maximum Helb loan. Students considered less needy will be awarded a 38 per cent scholarship, and a 55 per cent loan. However, the percentages will differ from person to person.

If, for example, the student studying Bachelor of Science (Medical Engineering) at TUM is placed in the vulnerable category and receives the maximum government sponsorship, it translates to a scholarship of Sh248,410 and a loan amount of Sh54,529. All the money will be paid directly to the university.

If the student is awarded the loan for the five years of study, they will complete their studies with a loan of Sh272,646 owed to Helb. Additionally, the student will need to apply for the regular student’s loan for subsistence while on campus. Helb has been giving student loans at an average of Sh37,000 per student per year (Sh185,000 for the five years). In total, the student will start job hunting with a loan burden of Sh457,646.

Students who will be categorised as less needy and in the same degree programme will get a maximum scholarship of Sh115,117 and a maximum loan of Sh166,617. In five years, the tuition loan burden will be Sh833,085 excluding the student’s loan for subsistence.

An analysis of the university fees for various courses shows that Kisii University will be the most expensive to go to for a bachelor of arts degree in education at a cost of Sh283,135. The same course will cost sh244,800 at Kabianga University while at Maasai Mara it will be Sh112,200.

By Wednesday, only 4,000 students had applied for financing out of the 140,107 who were placed to pursue degree courses.

To apply, students must register their details on the Higher Education Financing portal at The application process is fully online and applicants will not be required to print any documents.

The portal is linked to other government agencies like the Kenya Revenue Authority, National Hospital Insurance Fund, National Transport and Safety Authority, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and Safaricom and Airtel mobile phone networks, from which crucial data will be drawn to determine an applicant’s level of need.

The organisations have already signed data sharing agreements with Helb and UF, and a data protection impact assessment report filed with the Office of Data Protection Commissioner.

Other factors that will be used include the type of school one attended for primary and secondary education (public, private, day, boarding, rural or urban), with each scored differently. Consideration will also be paid to students who learnt through scholarships.

The new model was recommended by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms to replace the old one which subsidised tuition fees for all students. The government was meant to pay 80 per cent of the unit cost of the programmes while the university and households paid the remaining 20 per cent.

However, the government commitment has increasingly declined. In the last financial year, the government paid about 48 per cent of the cost of programmes for the students. It is this failure by the government to meet its obligation that has seen universities accumulate debts amounting to Sh61 billion owed to statutory bodies, suppliers and lecturers.

Continuing students are not affected by the new model and will continue paying the Sh16,000 in tuition fees per year plus other statutory charges.