Universities launch a fresh bid to triple tuition fees to Sh48,000 per semester up from the current Sh16,000 for fresh students.
In the most recent attempt to keep institutions of higher learning afloat, vice-chancellors have revived the petition to raise tuition prices at public universities.
According to a memo from the Ministry of Education, top university administrators are pushing for an increase in fees for the incoming first-year class.
The letter was drafted in response to a conference of vice-chancellors held on September 23 to discuss policy alternatives to guarantee the financial viability of the institutions, some of which rely on short-term loans to fund their operations.
To address cash flow issues that have hampered service delivery, the officials had earlier suggested raising the tuition fees for new students from the current Sh16,000 to Sh48,000.
Tripling the fees will mark the first major shake-up of university fees since the end of free university education in 1991 and the introduction of the student loans scheme – the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) — in 1995.
The demand for a fee revision comes as enrollment in self-sponsored programs at universities has sharply decreased since the government decided to completely pay students who received the required C+ mark on their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams.
Over the years, students who enrolled in the courses for the concurrent degree programs brought in billions for the institutions.
“The students paying should pay realistic tuition fees. Thus, review the Sh16,000 tuition payable since 1992,” reads a resolution made by the vice-chancellors.
They asked the State and University Funding Board (UFB), which has the responsibility of reassessing the cost of university courses and fees, to approve the increase in tuition rates.
To lessen criticism from current students, the vice-chancellors recommend that the increased fees be implemented for new students who will enroll in universities starting in the middle of the next year.
The tuition costs, which have not increased since 1995, account for Sh16,000 of the current average yearly fees of Sh26,000. Of this amount, Sh8,000 is paid by the student, and the remaining Sh16,000 is covered by Helb.
The remaining bit is taken by charges like registration, amenity, medical and activity fees.
In 2010, a study backed by the World Bank and the government recommended that public universities double their fees and increase the interest paid on Helb loans but student unions opposed the review.
Public universities have come under financial strain in recent years as a result of rapid expansion amid the dip in student enrolment, lower State funding, and mismanagement.
They are expected to undergo reforms to cut their costs and make them financially viable.
Data from the Ministry of Education show the institutions are struggling to honour obligations such as payroll taxes, retirement benefits, and insurance premiums for employees.
The universities have also failed to remit employee dues amounting to Sh34 billion, underlining the deepening cash flow crisis.
Data from UFB shows that capitation or allocation for government-sponsored students has fallen to 48 percent, leaving the universities with a funding gap of Sh68.35 billion as at June last year.
In recent years, a number of universities have had to scrap some courses and close satellite campuses to cut the cost of operations.