How Kenya’s cost of education compares globally

As Kenya’s tertiary education sector undergoes a seismic shift, questions surrounding the value and accessibility of higher education are swirling in the minds of both students and the general public.

The introduction of a new funding model, set to be implemented this year, is eliciting contrasting reactions – university administrations are breathing a sigh of relief, while wananchi question the worth of an education that comes with an increasingly hefty price tag.

A new funding model, touted as a lifeline for the cash-strapped varsities, promises to extricate them from the clutches of financial crises induced by bad debt and the government’s past failures to honour its commitments in covering student fees. Universities have been left grappling with insolvency, leaving their reputation bruised.

Exorbitant fees for university programs

However, for a society facing the stark reality of ever-mounting education costs, doubts are rising. The exorbitant fees have caused many to wonder: Is the pursuit of a university degree a sound investment in the face of the current economic landscape?

The restructured fee structures for programs spanning certificates to PhDs have sent shockwaves through the academic realm. The days when government pledges eased the financial burden on students are fading, leaving public institutions with an unenviable uphill battle to sustain their operations.

Kenya’s universities, once beacons of knowledge accessible to all, are now home to programs priced in the hundreds of thousands category. The government’s inconsistent financial support has left public institutions financially hobbled, transforming them into mere shadows of their former selves.

Take the field of degrees within the realm of commerce. Not long ago, a government-sponsored student pursuing a Bachelor in Commerce would shell out a mere Kes25,000-30,000 per year in many public universities.

With the new fee structures, however, the University of Nairobi’s Bachelor of Commerce now stands at a staggering Kes220,348 annually – an abrupt shift in affordability that challenges students’ dreams.

Medicine, the pinnacle of healthcare education, carries an even heftier price tag. Aspiring doctors face program fees of Kes612,635 in Kenyatta, Moi, and JKUAT universities. The once-accessible dream of becoming a medical doctor now demands a financial investment beyond reach for many.

On or around September 7, Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu said that only 56 percent of university applicants have successfully applied for university funding days before universities’ opening for freshmen and ladies. Two months since their reporting, First Years across Kenyan universities are yet to receive financing from the government.

Students who need government funding must file their applications through the Higher Education Financing portal upon placement in various universities by the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS).

The consequences of this paradigm shift ripple far and wide. Potential students, burdened by the weight of high tuition, might forfeit their educational aspirations. Consequently, a waning number of applicants could spell dire consequences for universities’ sustainability.

Yet, even as Kenya grapples with an increasingly expensive tertiary education landscape, international alternatives beckon, albeit at varying costs.

As Kenyans grapple with an increasingly expensive tertiary education landscape, international alternatives beckon, albeit at varying estimate costs including upkeep, accommodation, and healthcare insurance among others.

Read also: July diaspora inflows from the US shrink as inflation bites

Education costs abroad

Across popular study destinations such as Canada, Germany, Finland, and South Africa, education costs vary, each offering a unique set of considerations. For instance, Germany offers tuition-free education, making it an enticing destination for international students. However, high living costs may prove a significant hurdle.

In comparison, Canada provides globally recognized education with fees that, while still expensive, offer better budgetary options than the United States.

As Kenya’s public universities become less accessible due to mounting costs, the once-compelling option of studying abroad becomes increasingly attractive, especially given the high prospects of transitioning into well-paying jobs overseas.

The question of whether to seek education within the country’s borders or venture abroad is no longer just an academic decision; it’s a financial one.

Soaring costs of university education in Kenya raise broader concerns about the future of the nation’s workforce. As unemployment looms large, the value of a degree must be weighed against the financial burden it places on individuals.

The debate surrounding higher education’s accessibility and affordability is far from over, forcing individuals, policymakers, and institutions alike to grapple with the implications of an evolving educational landscape.

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