Tighten your belts, VCs want you to cough more

University of Nairobi graduands take a selfie during a graduation ceremony held on September 22, 2017.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Should the proposal get a nod, students will pay an annual Sh48, 000 up from the current subsidised annual fee of Sh16, 000.
  • The purpose of the Helb allocation is to clear outstanding school fees besides enabling needy students to pay for their accommodation and upkeep.

University students in public institutions will pay more to get an education should a proposal by vice chancellors to increase current fees threefold is passed in the ongoing university reforms.  

Higher Education and Research principal secretary, Simon Nabukwesi, explained that public universities face a huge financial crisis, a factor that has prompted the institutions and the ministry to make the drastic proposal.

The PS explained that the review of the fees policy would save universities from collapse, adding that the proposal has since been forwarded to the Cabinet and will also be presented to the National Assembly for approval before the end of the year. Once passed into law, students are expected to fork out the increased fees starting next year.

“The universities have been trying to adhere to the set guidelines, but due to the prevailing economic situation, there is need to revise the fees upwards,” said Mr Nabukwesi, explaining that the current fees guidelines were implemented in 1989 and have never been revised since.

Should the proposal get a nod, students will pay an annual Sh48, 000 up from the current subsidised annual fee of Sh16, 000.

Sh70, 000

The government pays Sh70, 000 per academic programme per student, with learners receiving  further funding from the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) amounting to Sh60,000 depending on their individual needs.

In the 2018-2019 financial year, the average amount allocated per student was Sh42,000, the minimum being Sh38,850 - the highest amount received was Sh63,000. In the 2019-2020 financial year, Helb increased the amount by five percent, bringing the average amount to Sh48,673 with the minimum allocation per student being Sh40,793. The highest amount given out was Sh66,150.

The purpose of the Helb allocation is to clear outstanding school fees besides enabling needy students to pay for their accommodation and upkeep.

Mr Nabukwesi explained that to ensure students manage to pay the proposed fees , vice chancellors propose that Helb increase the amount of money it loans students to a minimum of Sh68,000.

The PS further noted that private universities have also been asking the government to revise their students’ fees upwards to cushion them from huge losses when they admit government-sponsored students into their institutions.

The decline in Module II programmes in universities, which was a major source of funding for public universities has been a major blow to institutions of higher learning

The universities had banked on the programmes to stay afloat, but this was curtailed by the drop in the number of students attaining the required entry grade of C+ after sitting the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations.

“We are encouraging universities to start offering certificate and diploma programmes for self-sponsored programmes as a way to generate income,” said the PS, adding that reforms in the university sector seek to develop sustainable financing models for universities to address the challenge.

Currently, the government is using the maximum differentiated cost (MDUC) which considers teaching staff, supporting infrastructure, student staff ratio and scaling factor.

Mr Nabukwesi said the factors determine the cost to a student to support a programme in diploma, biotechnology, bachelors, masters and doctorate levels.

Government sponsored students

“Currently, the government aims to contribute 80 percent while universities and students to contribute each 10 percent,” he said, adding that due to insufficient funding, the differentiated unit cost is done on a prorata basis.

The system was introduced in the 2017/2018 financial year, the aim to allocate funds to government sponsored students in universities.

It was adopted as a way of having clear, concise and transparent methods of financing universities. It is based on the cost of university programmes and the number of students enrolled in these programmes. The PS, however, noted that the funding formula has faced many challenges associated with inadequate financial resources.

“Funding has impact on the quality of education because it curtails investment in quality teaching and learning materials and facilities,” he explains.

Mr Nabukwesi said the reforms will see universities offering science, technology and mathematics (stem) courses allocated more funds than those offering arts courses.

“The cost of training students in some courses is more expensive than other courses (but) currently, universities are funded per student,” he said.

Imposing pay cuts

The formula will also see established universities such as the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture, Maseno University, Egerton University, Technical University of Kenya and Dedan Kimathi University which offer science and engineering courses benefit.

The financial crisis in universities has not just affected students, employees of these institutions, too, have had to bear this burden, with most universities imposing pay cuts on their work force.

Also worth noting is that continued reduction of government budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Education has led to public universities accumulating up to Sh34 billion statutory payment arrears.

“The national government reduced the funding meant for universities, which has caused universities to fail to release the deductions to the relevant authorities because they are financially constrained,” explained the PS, who added that the statutory arrears are staff deductions meant for the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), pension scheme dues, insurance premiums, Sacco contributions, the National Health Insurance Fund and the National Social Security Fund.

The most affected universities will be the older universities, which include the University of Nairobi, Moi University, Egerton University and Technical University of Kenya Others are Kenyatta University, Maseno University and Jomo Kenyatta University.