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Major players now unite to increase university fees

EDUCATION
By Augustine Oduor | December 3rd 2020

 

Principal Secretary, State Department for University Education and Research Amb. Simon Nabukwesi during a meeting with the Committee on Education on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Treasury, VCs, MPs endorse the decision to increase tuition fees per student from Sh16,000 to Sh48,000 per year.

The National Treasury has endorsed a plan to increase university fees, pushing the burden to parents and signaling the government’s inability to fully fund the broke public institutions.

In addition to this, the Ministry of Education was yesterday advised to embark on holistic university reforms that include staff cuts, salary reviews, mergers and closure of nonviable campuses to guarantee financial sustainability in the institutions.

This comes as it emerged that the universities are presently underfunded at a 60 per cent rate against the required 80 per cent, a move that has over the years plunged the institutions into a crisis. The Ministry of Education, Vice-Chancellors and MPs have already supported the fee increase for university education as one of the ways of plugging the funding gap.

The endorsement by the Treasury is the final in the deal that will now see parents dig deeper in their pockets to fund their children’s higher education.

The development is a major setback on parents’ hopes for subsidised higher education, given that the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) funding had been reduced from Sh45,000 to Sh37,000.

Helb Chief Executive Officer Charles Ringera said the decision to reduce the loan funding was a result of the Covid-19 crisis that had slowed down loan recoveries as most Kenyans lost jobs.

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Treasury PS Julius Muia yesterday told MPs that they were ready to pitch the case for universities financing plan by submitting a Cabinet Paper that contains fees hikes as early as next month.

“But this must start from the Ministry of Education forwarding to us a well thought-out and all-encompassing Cabinet Memorandum that we shall look through at the Treasury and forward to the Cabinet for discussion,” said Dr Muia.

The details emerged when Ministry of Education, Treasury officers and VCs appeared before the National Assembly Education Committee chaired by Florence Mutua. The MPs wanted to know if fees increase was a viable option and whether there existed a proper financing plan for the higher education sector.

University Education PS Simon Nabukwesi supported the fees increase and enumerated the reforms plan for the higher education sector.

Financial problems

The development will now kick-start the drive to hike fees, which vice-chancellors said will cure many financial problems that the institutions presently face.

Presently, all government-sponsored students are funded at a flat rate of Sh120,000 per year based on a formula developed in 1989. Of this, Sh86,000 is tuition fees while Sh34,000 caters for students’ personal expenses, including accommodation, food and books.

The government pays Sh70,000 of the tuition money with students left to pay Sh16,000. “As vice-chancellors, we are pitching that fees should be increased to Sh48,000, and this will go a long way in resolving many financial problems that universities presently face,” said Prof Geoffrey Muluvi, VCs Committee chairperson.

He said the current Sh16,000 tuition fee had long been overtaken by events and was overdue for review.

“With the current average unit cost per student at Sh254,644, by simply taking the current fees of Sh16,000 against the nominal figure of Sh86,000 on a proportional basis with respect to the current average unit cost, we have agreed that the student should pay an average figure of Sh47,376, which nominally could be adopted to be Sh48,000,” said Prof Muluvi.

The effect of this is a huge burden to parents, some of who are reeling under the weight of Covid-19 crisis. Treasury officials argued that university fees increase was rational, citing that parents paid more than Sh50,000 in boarding secondary schools.

The officials said students in middle-level colleges paid more than Sh30,000 and argued that a Sh48,000 university fee would be rational. Dr Muia added that students unable to pay the revised fees would be allocated bursaries through Helb.

Ringera said any fees increment would mean an additional allocation per child to support their education. He said Helb would require an additional Sh10 billion to support the increase. The exchequer already gives Helb Sh11.3 billion.

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