New varsity funding model to give poor students more cash

Ruto announces new university funding model

President William Ruto yesterday announced a new funding model for universities and technical and vocational education and training (Tvet) institutions that will see students from needy households get more government support than those from well-off families.

Dr Ruto clarified that the model will not raise the fees for the students. The model incorporates funding of higher education through government grants (scholarships), student loans and household contributions.

The model also sees the government obligation for funding university courses drop from 80 per cent to a maximum of 53 per cent.

However, the President announced increased funding that will see the Ministry of Education’s budget for the higher education sector rise from Sh54 billion to Sh84.6 billion. In the budget, university education has been allocated Sh53 billion, up from Sh44 billion, with the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) getting Sh31.6 billion — more than three times the Sh10 billion in the current budget. The budget for Tvets has doubled from Sh5.2 billion to Sh10 billion.

“The cost of training Tvet students will be 67,189 per year per trainee down from Sh71,420 for the new intake of May 2023,” Dr Ruto said. He made the announcement at State House in Nairobi after a meeting with vice-chancellors of all public universities and CEOs of State agencies in the education sector, National Treasury top officials as well his economic advisory team that was led by Prof David Ndii.

The new plan marks the end of funding based on the differentiated unit cost (DUC) and a switch to what Dr Ruto termed ‘student-centred’ model. The announcement opens the doors for the process of admitting the 2022 KCSE candidates whose fate has been in limbo awaiting the resolution of the funding model.

“Students will be categorised according to four levels of need; vulnerable, extremely needy, needy and less needy. All students shall be supported adequately to meet the cost of the programme they choose to pursue. No student will ever be left behind,” Dr Ruto said.

Full state support

About 92,350 students (29 per cent) who will join universities and Tvet institutions this year have been identified as vulnerable and extremely needy and will receive full government support in terms of scholarships, loans and bursaries.

“Students whose households are at the bottom of the pyramid shall enjoy equal opportunity in accessing university and Tvet education. Their households shall not make any contribution towards the education of their children,” the President said.

Under the old model, the government’s responsibility was 80 per cent across all courses for all students while the households met the remaining 20 per cent through personal contributions or Helb loans. The loans were not directly linked to the fee payment.

Now, students from needy households joining universities will receive government scholarships (grants) of up to a maximum of 53 per cent and Helb loans of up to 40 per cent with the households paying the remaining seven per cent of the cost of a course.

The cheapest course is a bachelor of arts degree (Sh144,000). This means that the government will pay a maximum of Sh76,320 while students will get a Sh57,600 loan from Helb. The household will pay the remaining Sh10,080 per year.

For the most expensive programme, Bachelor of Dentistry at Sh720,000, the government will pay a maximum of Sh381,600, with the students getting a loan of Sh288,000 while the family pays the remaining Sh50,400 per year.

Students joining Tvet institutions will receive government scholarships up to a maximum of 50 per cent and 30 per cent in loans while households will pay 20 per cent of the costs.

Public universities have accumulated debts totalling Sh60.2 billion that continue to grow every month. A top official who attended the meeting told Nation that the issue of settling the huge debt was not discussed but will be dealt with at later.

“The new model of funding higher education, to be implemented effective this academic year 2023/2024, will commence with the new cohort of 173,127 students joining universities and 145,325 joining Tvets. All continuing government-sponsored students shall be supported in line with the previous existing funding model,” Dr Ruto said.

Dr Ruto said that students who opt to study in private universities will qualify for Helb loans but will not be eligible for the scholarships.