Save universities from piling financial woes

EDITORIAL |
Moi University Main Campus Administration Block [Kevin Tunoi, Standard]

Public universities are facing serious financial crunches. Moi University's Council Chairman Humphrey Njuguna has acknowledged that the insitution is labouring under a Sh5 billion debt occasioned by, among other things, closure of satellite colleges that were a reliable source of revenue, a bloated workforce and a reduction in students numbers from 50,000 to 30,000. 

Incidentally, the university is not sailing in this boat alone. the University of Nairobi has increased fee for new students from Sh26,500 to Sh59,000 and accommodation from Sh6,000 to Sh40,000 in an attempt to raise funds. 

Kenyatta University has an operational deficit of Sh1.3 billion. The institution owes the Kenya Revenue Authority and suppliers more than Sh5.6 billion. It relies heavily on borrowing and is unable to remit pension deductions and taxes. Consequently, KRA recently froze its accounts over Sh2 billion unpaid taxes.

The story is the same for Egerton University that by last year ran a debt of over Sh5 billion. Woes bedeviling public universities arise from ambitious expansion programmes, ravages of Covid-19, excess non-academic staff and low funding by the government. Last year, there was a drastic cut in the differentiated unit cost from 80 per cent to 55 per cent. An element of fiscal mismanagement by these institutions cannot be discounted.

At this rate, there is real danger that most of the public universities could fold up unless the government takes drastic measures to save them from imminent collapse. That is an eventuality that Kenyans can ill afford. There is urgent need for the government to device ways of funding universities to keep them alive as our veritable citadels of knowledge. One way of doing this is by increasing funding, raise Higher Education Loans Board allocations and reducing interest on student loans. Anything short of this will make university education a preserve for the rich.

 

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