Shock for top varsities in new funding plan

JKUAT graduands toss their caps into the air during their 38th graduation ceremony. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Top public universities could be the first casualties in the new funding formula that seeks to support poor families while also giving adequate support to the rest of students.

It is now emerging that the traditional giants that always received big number of students and also got automatic huge financial allocations from the government will now have to compete with the rest of the institutions, including private universities.

This is because each university will now have to publicly declare its courses and attach updated costs to each academic programme.

These comparative details will be used by parents to decide which institutions to select for their children.

This means that parents will now have to look at available learning facilities such as libraries, laboratories and other resources  and also compare costs of academic programmes while settling on choice of university.

Parents will also assess accommodation charges and available alternatives for their children before they select a university for admission.

Previously, parents had little choice to make after Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) completed its placement exercise with little room of success left during inter university transfers.

The new funding regime will now spark competitiveness that will also see some smaller institutions attract more students, a move that will impact heavily on their growth.

The reality is now sinking to University of Nairobi, Egerton, Kenyatta University and JKUAT that could witness a decline in funding under the new arrangement.

A document prepared by the World Bank and which informed a number of reforms in the university sector reveals that students in some universities have over the years received more funding compared to those in other institutions although they were all under government sponsorship.

Defunct system

The document shows that under the defunct system, a government sponsored student at the University of Nairobi received the highest aid of about Sh242,000 annually.

Students at Egerton student received the second highest amount of subsidy at Sh184,000, then Technical University of Mombasa at 170,000 while Kenyatta University students got Sh144,000.

JKUAT students received Sh141,000 and Technical University of Kenya students received an average of Sh124,000.

At the bottom, Machakos University College where students receive the lowest funding of just Sh67,000 a year followed by the University of Eldoret at Sh77,000 as capitation to the students.

 “A student enrolled at the University of Nairobi receives six times the amount of government subsidy that a student attending Machakos University College gets,” the document reads.

President William Ruto last week announced drastic changes on university funding by putting an end to the annual government sponsorship awarded to top KCSE performers.

Students will be categorised in four levels of need vulnerable, extremely needy, needy and less needy.

Henceforth, Dr Ruto, announced the scholarship will be reserved for the needy students.

He said funding to students shall combine scholarships, loans and Household contributions on a graduated scale, scientifically determined by a Means Testing Instrument (MTI).

Charles Ringera the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) chief executive said under the MTI, local administration and religious leaders will help in the identification of poor families.

In a past interview, Ringera also revealed that they work in collaboration with other government institutions such as the Kenya Revenue Authority to determine the student’s financial background.

Ruto said that students from needy households joining universities will receive government scholarships of up to a maximum of 53 per cent and loans of up to 40 per cent; the parent will only pay for 7 per cent of the cost of their University Education.

Those joining TVETS will receive government scholarships up to a maximum of 50 per cent and 30 per cent In loans. Their Households will pay 20 per cent of the costs.

Less needy students

The less needy students joining university are to be funded through a government scholarship of up to a maximum of 38 per cent of the cost of the programme, and 55 per cent in form of loans. Their households will pay only 7 per cent.

For those joining TVETS, they will be funded 32 per cent for government scholarship, 48 per cent for loans and their households will pay 20 per cent of the costs.

University and Academic Staff Union secretary general Constantine Wasonga said the new arrangement could see a decline in the number of students in some public universities.

“More and more students from high income households will opt for private universities because the facilities in the public universities are not to the required standards,” Wasonga said.

The changes could also see more students dependent on student loans that are payable when they join the job market, he said.

The good news however, is that the public universities that will attract more students will stand a higher chance of reviving the parallel programme that has been struggling.

The new plan does not favour any university and places all the public institutions on a level playing field where competitiveness will be key.

Private universities, that have for the past few years also received government funding will no longer get capitation and they will also have to scramble for the same students.

Dr Ruto said that students who opt to enroll in private universities will have access to government loans.

Higher education analysts argue that the strive to attract students by both public and private universities will result on quality education as each institution will endeavour to be the best.

Ruto announced that, government will fully fund the vulnerable and extremely needy students who comprise 29 per cent of the student’s joining university and TVET’s this year.

The funding shall be through government scholarships, loans and bursaries. The plan is to integrate all existing funding schemes—such as scholarship and bursaries— under a single authority and provide one set of eligibility criteria applied across the board.

Simply put, scoring an A— or any grade within the university cut off mark— will not be a guarantee for a student to get government sponsorship.

Instead, the government will look further into the student’s background to establish if the parents/guardians can afford to pay fees without or with minimal assistance.

This could have ripple effects on the institutions that have benefitted from the current arrangement.