Private universities are set to face a hard time after the State initiated the process to end the placement of government-sponsored students at the institutions.
The 2023-24 Budget Policy Statement, which spells out priority expenditures for the government, shows that the state has terminated exchequer funding for private universities from the next financial year.
The move, if approved by Parliament, will spell doom for private universities that have been relying on state capitation to stay afloat amid financial turmoil in institutions of higher learning.
“KUCCPS, should not place new government-sponsored students in private universities,” reads in part the report that was tabled yesterday in the National Assembly by the Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairperson Ndindi Nyoro.
The Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) is the institution that is mandated by law to place form four graduates in universities and colleges.
The development comes at a time when the government is struggling to fund public universities that are choked with debts amounting to over Sh56 billion.
There are fears that the end of the placement of government-sponsored students in private universities could see thousands miss direct entry to universities because of limited slots that are determined by bed capacity.
The policy programme was introduced in 2016 as part of the government’s strategy to ensure that students who score the university minimum entry grade of C plus are absorbed and funded by the state.
Details show that so far, private universities have received about Sh9 billion since 2016 when the programme started.
In the 2017/2018 financial year, a total of Sh1.56 billion was disbursed towards the program while in the 2020/2021 financial year, a total of Sh2.7 billion was disbursed.
MPs have previously questioned why the state is funding private universities yet the institutions are not open to audit by the nation’s Auditor-General.
In a previous meeting, Education committee chairman Julius Melly questioned why the state was still placing students in private universities.”We used to admit students in private universities because of space but now the issue is over, are we still processing students to private universities and if yes, what’s the basis?”Melly paused.
For one particular case, the government was asked to pay Sh250 million to Uzima University as pending bills.
Melly said the concerns over the funding of government students in private universities was a blanket issue.”I have seen a letter from the immediate former CS National Treasury over this Sh250 million, why are we only talking about this university?” Melly paused.
In a report, the public Investments Committee on Education and Governance also proposed a review of this funding policy.
“Review the policy since the capacity gap between slots available in public universities vis a vis qualified students is now non-existent,” Wanami Wamboka said.
Wamboka who is the committee chair further noted that the objectives of private varsities differ from that of other national institutions.
The Bumula MP explained that most private universities are profit-making entities.“Objectives of private universities may be at variance with national development goals as they are first and foremost profit-centric,” he said.
Wamboka now wants an amendment to the Universities Act and the Helb Act.This, he said will give public universities first priority to fill up their slots to 100 per cent.
“This will be before a student is financed through capitation, in a private entity. Students who willingly choose private education must surely be capable of funding the same,” he added.
Recent data from the Universities Fund shows the State currently pays for 20.79 percent of the unit costs for government-sponsored students in private universities and 48.11 percent of those in public universities.
The United States International University stopped admitting government-sponsored students due to under funding.
Strathmore University is the other high-profile private university that also stopped admitting State-sponsored students.
Mount Kenya University, Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) and Daystar University are among the private universities that admit government-sponsored students.