What Will Happen When Stops Funding Public Universities
If what Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu said about ending government sponsorship comes true, parents will have to pay more for their children’s education at a public university.
Since public institutions have been getting less money over the past five years, Machogu’s decision was long overdue.
The funding shortfall increased from Sh7.8 billion in 2018/2019 to a staggering Sh28 billion in the current fiscal year.
This has left several universities battling to survive since they owe billions of shillings to various suppliers and academics.
There are also billions of dollars worth of blocked projects on campuses nationwide.
There are also problems with student hostels, libraries without the right tools, and lecture halls that aren’t big enough.
Dramatic losses in state support for higher education will contribute to rapid, large tuition rises and shift more educational costs to students.
This will make it more difficult for students to enroll and graduate.
These changes will also worsen class inequalities, as rising tuition can discourage low-income and minority students from attending college.
In response to funding suspension, universities will increase tuition, reduce faculty, restrict course offerings, and sometimes close campuses.
Higher education costs will remain high, and some services will be suspended in certain areas.
Rising tuition threatens affordability and access, leaving many students and their families –– including those whose annual salaries have stagnated over the past few decades –– stuck with burdensome debt or unable to afford college.
This is especially true for students who have historically faced significant challenges in attending college, low-income students, and marginalized students.
Higher costs imperil these students’ futures and the entire nation, which relies increasingly upon government funding for academic growth and prosperity.
The operation of public universities requires approximately Sh84.5 billion. However, only Sh43,9 billion has been budgeted for undergraduate education.
This represents a resource deficit of around Sh40,6 billion. There is no government support for graduate education and research.
Students with special needs do not get more money, even though they need more than others.
The government is required to assist universities with 80 percent of the unit cost per student, but only 48 percent has been allocated in the budget for 2022-2023.
If the government ceases paying universities, many impoverished Kenyans who rely on such assistance to obtain a university degree may be unable to access certain academic programs.
Clinical medicine courses are the most expensive to learn. The most expensive bachelor’s degrees are in clinical medicine and dentistry, with a maximum differentiated unit cost (DUC) of Sh720,000 per year.
The least expensive courses are those in basic humanities and social sciences, economics, and geography, with a DUC of Sh144,000 per year.
The cost of academic programs is affected by several factors, including paying instructors, equipment, laboratories, and learning resources.
Whether they reside on campus or off, students incur increased living expenses.
This varies based on the university’s location, with universities in cities such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Nakuru charging more.
There are other expenses, such as computer use and stationery purchases.
Mr. Machogu’s remark looks to be a U-turn on a campaign pledge made by the Kenya Kwanza Alliance through the education charter approved by President William Ruto.
The alliance pledged in its charter to “raise current capitation for both university and technical and vocational education and training (Tvet)” education.
It is also puzzling that Mr. Machogu made the announcement while the Presidential Working Group on Educational Reforms is still soliciting public input on desired changes to the sector.
Even worse, the announcement comes when the Auditor-General has declared bankruptcy in numerous public colleges.
The proclamation made by Mr. Machogu over the weekend has been met with diverse reactions from stakeholders.
“Please go ahead and stop funding the universities. Dissolve your ministry, because what right do you have to have a ministry for something Government of Kenya doesn’t fund? Then explain to hustlers why a chicken-selling president who went to a public university doesn’t want public universities,” Dr Wandia Njoya, a lecturer at Daystar University, opined.
Students have rejected proposals to increase public university tuition prices, which have remained at Sh16,000 per year for the past 30 years.
There are other administrative charges that students are responsible for, which differ between institutions.
Government-sponsored students at the University of Nairobi pay an additional Sh10,000 administrative fees.
“Tuition fees should be reviewed every four years, based on the inflation rate, to reflect the needs of universities and students. This may include targeted free tuition which will take into consideration the financial capability of individual households,” said Universities Fund CEO Geoffrey Monari.
Since there isn’t a reliable data management system in place yet, he said that the fund would set up a biometric system for student registration to ensure that the information is correct.
According to Mr. Monari, the development of the system costs Sh48 million.