Varsity fees structure misleading parents, legislators tell ministry

Helb CEO Charles Ringera (from left), Higher Education and Research PS Dr. Beatrice Muganda Inyangala and CEO University Fund Geoffrey Monari before the National Education committee at Continental house,Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

Members of Parliament have raised questions over fees being charged more than 140,000 students set to join university in September.

According to the National Assembly Education Committee, there is no clarity on the universities fees structures since they only give the total amount without stating how much the government and parents are expected to pay.

The legislators argued that admission letters provided under the new university funding model are misleading parents.

The lawmakers now want the letters amended to reflect the breakdown.

"Some parents have looked at the admission letters and they find the quoted fees to be above their reach thus opting for their children to go for police recruitment or seek to join the military," said Kitutu Masaba MP Clive Gisairo.

The model, introduced in September, involves providing financial support to government-sponsored students based on their level of need.

Faulty funding formula

It ranks students into five bands that reflect their financial ability, from the most needy to the least needy.

However, MPs have faulted the method used to classify the students, terming it unreliable and vulnerable.

According to the Ministry of Education, the government employs a scientific method to assess a learner's ability to pay fees, a method known as the Means Testing Instrument (MTI).

The method looks at the parent's income and employer, medical expenditure, primary and secondary school they attended, poverty index, and motor vehicle ownership, among other parameters.

But MPs protested that the parameters fall short of capturing the true reflection of a student’s background.

“During our visit to universities, one of the institutions elaborated to us and showed that the Means Testing Instrument is not water tight,” said Kabondo Kasipul MP Eve Obara.

Lugari legislator Nabii Nabwera argued that some students were placed based on misleading background information. 

“Some of those students placed in different bands that reflect their ability to meet higher fees could not even afford fees they were required to pay in secondary schools, they have pending debts of over 200,000 shillings in their previous schools,” he said.

Addressing shortcomings

Data tabled before the committee showed that 9,726 students identified for government funding in last year’s placement protested and sought a review of their status.

Out of these, 4,087 were successful while 5,639 had their appeals rejected.

Timothy Kipchumba, Marakwet West MP, wondered whether the model was rushed, noting that some students are being advised to choose courses that their parents can afford rather than those they qualify for.

The legislators called on the ministry to detail the model's challenges and whether a return to the previous Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC) system should be considered.

However, Higher Education Principal Secretary Beatric Inyangala defended the model but noted that hurdles would be addressed.

“We acknowledge that there some gaps in this process. Some are caused by not getting the right details from the onset,” she said.

“We are analysing the first year of implementation and we take note of the feedback to inform any improvement."

The committee chairman, Julius Melly, asked the ministry to respond in two weeks and give details how they intend to address the shortcomings.