Varsity funding: Poor students greater gainers

Wednesday, June 5th, 2024 05:42 | By
Kenyatta University students during a past reporting day. PHOTO/Print
Kenyatta University students during a past reporting day. PHOTO/Print

The government has revised the way it funds university education, and students from low-income families are the top beneficiaries.

Students at the bottom of the socio-economic scale will enjoy government financing of 95 percent under the new funding model, while those from households with an income of more than Sh120,000 will get 60 percent.

Those whose income ranges between Sh5,995 and Sh23,670, classified under band two, will enjoy 90 percent funding, and those with income of Sh23,671 to Sh70,000, under band three, will enjoy 80 percent.

The middle class, with income of between Sh70,001 and Sh119,999 and falling in band three, will get 70 percent funding.

Those in band one, the most vulnerable group, will get 70 percent in scholarship funds and 25 percent in loans, with the student’s family only shouldering the balance of 5 percent.

Admission letters

Those in band two will access 60 percent in scholarship funds and 30 percent in loans, meaning their families will only cover the remaining 10 percent.

Meanwhile, students in band three will be funded to the tune of 50 percent of the cost in scholarships and 30 percent in loans, leaving their families to cater for 20 percent.

Those in band four will get 40 percent in scholarships and 30 percent in loans but will have to pay the remaining 30 percent.

Those in band five will be entitled to 30 percent in scholarships and another 30 percent in loans, leaving their families to cover the balance of 40 percent.

The new details came the day the government was asked to recall all admission letters sent to students and issue new ones detailing only the amounts households should pay and not the entire fee structure. The action followed an outcry from parents. The National Assembly’s Education Committee, chaired by Tinderet MP Julias Melly, faulted the government, describing the new financing model launched last year as defective and unworkable.

New fees structure

At a meeting between the committee and education stakeholders led by Higher Education Principal Secretary Beatrice Muganda, lawmakers demanded that officials admit that the new funding model was not working well compared with the old one that pegged funding on the number of undergraduate students registered in a regular programme and the kinds of courses they take.

Said Melly: “Madam PS, we will be meeting on Monday next week where we expect you will come with the exact date as to when you will be recalling the letters.

“We want you to issue a new fee structure stating how much each household should get and not the figure you have given us. In the new structure, share with parents the fees for term one, term two and term three just like it is done in primary and secondary schools.”

MPs questioned the Mean Testing Instruments (MTI) and Application Portal interface being used to allocate scholarships and loans to students, saying it is questionable.

The questions came after Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) CEO Charles Ringera disclosed that the agency had adopted formula-based allocation criteria based on a family’s socio-economic background (Poverty Probability Index), affirmative action (people with disabilities, orphans, marginalised groups and gender), socio-demographic metrics (family size and marital status), and family income and expenditures.

Parents’ income

Loan applicants, Ringera said, are required to declare the income of their parents, family background, primary school and secondary school attended, poverty index range gauged from primary school location, whether their parents are senior citizens who receive social protection, National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) for both father and mother.

Ringera said: “A key criterion for allocating scholarships and loans to students is the level of need. This is meticulously considered to ensure that all needy students are adequately supported to pursue higher education. The MTI is applied to determine a student’s level of need.

“These validations are proxy points. If we miss you in KRA, in NHIF, we will see you in primary schools because we have your details there, like National Education Management Information System (Nemis).”

PS Muganda assured lawmakers that she will direct universities to withdraw admission letters sent to parents showing the entire fees.

But committee members claimed that the MTI is unreliable.

Said Melly: “Madam PS, what you are talking about - these KPIs and MTIs - are not working, as we have been told by parents and students. Can you tell us whether these things are working?”

Lugari MP Nabii Nabwera sought to know how accurate the validators were and whether the ministry was concerned that students were being allocated courses that they did not apply for.

Kibra MP Peter Orero called the new funding model the strangest formula he had ever seen, saying it is more theoretical than practical.

Kitutu Masaba MP Clive Gisairo said that although the model was designed to help the most vulnerable, it is actually doing the opposite.

Marakwet East MP Kipchumba Toroitich sought to know whether Kenya rushed to come up with the model.

He said: “Did we as a country rush into this funding model? Many parents claim that the former DUC was working better than the new model. Do you agree with me that we did not do adequate research?”

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