In 2023, the cost of university education in Kenya increased, affecting many young people seeking higher education. The University Funding Board (UFB) pushed for a limit on the amount of money students from rich families receive, resulting in these students paying more in university fees. This move will see students applying for loans from the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) get vetted before the loans are disbursed.

The history of the cost of university education in Kenya has been a contentious issue. In the past, it used to be that if a student scored a KCSE grade C+ and above, they qualified for a degree course under government funding, commonly known as government-sponsored students. It did not matter whether the student was from a poor or rich family; their KCSE grade was the determinant of whether they would be funded by the government or not. This model was simple and predictable and had existed for decades.

However, in 2023, this changed. The Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER) recommended a three-fold increase in university school fees from the current KSh 16,000 to KSh 52,000 per semester. The proposals were handed to President William Ruto on February 16th and noted that there was a funding shortfall in universities, urging the government to increase its funding.

Statements made by governing bodies in charge of this decision have been mixed. The National Treasury 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. The Ministry of Education, Vice-Chancellors, and MPs have already supported the fee increase for university education as one way of plugging the funding gap.

Statements made by government officials have also been mixed. Education CS George Magoha gave a go-ahead to the proposal that university school fees for students be increased, thus allowing the proposal to be vetted by the education committee and other stakeholders. However, Florence Mutua, who chairs the education committee, said that the government is keen on helping parents manage the financial burden by increasing Higher Education Loans disbursements to the neediest students.

Statements made by universities and lecturers have also been mixed. A Moi University Don Thomas Cheruiyot said that the government should increase university fees if they expect universities to provide quality services. Prof Cheruiyot said that students in higher institutions of learning cannot continue paying Sh16,000 per year and expect to get quality education, saying universities have no option but to review fees upward despite the idea being quite sensitive.

Statements made by students have been largely negative. A student at Uzima University called for interventions after the institution allegedly increased school fees for all continuing students from approximately KSh 79,000 to KSh 229,000. The student wondered why the institution was increasing fees while he was a government-sponsored student and said things are worse because the university wants continuing students to pay new fees effective September 2023.

Statements made by activists on this topic have also been largely negative. The Kenya Universities’ Students Organisation (Kuso) President Antony Muchui said that the fees increase will deny many poor students access to education. Muchui said that children from poor families have a higher probability of dropping out of school than their counterparts from rich backgrounds.

The impact of this university fees increase on students in Kenya is significant. Many students who miss out on government funding or who do not receive enough funding will have to dig deeper into their pockets to finance their education. This could result in many young people being unable to afford higher education.

The impact on families in Kenya is also significant. Parents and guardians will have to bear the brunt of this decision by paying higher fees for their children’s education. This could put a strain on many families’ finances.

The impact on universities is also significant. Universities are already facing financial problems and this decision could further exacerbate these issues. Some universities have failed to remit statutory deductions, which continue to attract interest and penalties. The Vice Chancellors’ Committee has already proposed that tuition fees be raised threefold from Sh16,000 to Sh48,000 for universities to run effectively.

Currently, there is no clear plan on what is being done about this issue. Students are calling for interventions and activists are speaking out against this decision. It remains to be seen what actions will be taken to address this issue.

In conclusion, the rise in university fees in 2023 will have a significant impact on youth seeking higher education in Kenya. Many young people may be unable to afford higher education due to this decision. Families will also be affected as they will have to bear the brunt of this decision by paying higher fees for their children’s education. Universities are also facing financial problems and this decision could further exacerbate these issues. It remains to be seen what actions will be taken to address this issue.

Willy Kamau