Kenya launches portal as new funding model goes live

Kenya has unveiled a new portal to allow students to apply for scholarships, loans and bursaries under the new university funding system that kicks off next month.

Students from public universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions who require funding must apply formally through the Higher Education Financing portal.

This development marks the beginning of the implementation of the new model announced in May that has seen the government group students into three ‘financial’ categories: vulnerable, less vulnerable and able.

Vulnerable students will be fully funded by the government, a departure from the current model whereby any student who qualifies to join university via the government-funded scheme enjoys state financing through university.

While launching the platform in Nairobi on 31 July, Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu noted that the system will be fair, embrace inclusivity and the neediest cases will be given priority for the funding.

“For the first time, students whose households are at the bottom of the pyramid shall enjoy equal opportunities in accessing universities and TVET education. Out of the 2022 KCSE [Kenya Certificate Of Secondary Education] graduates, over 45,000 university students and 42,000 TVET students categorised as vulnerable and extremely needy will be fully funded under the government scholarship and loans,” said Machogu.

Financing portal

In this new model of funding, the government seeks to channel fiscal assistance directly to the individual students at higher institutions of learning as opposed to the previous model whereby it was channelling the money to the institutions.

The funding will consider each student’s case on an individual basis, bearing in mind factors such as the household monthly income of the student’s home.

Each student will need to apply for the scholarship, loans and bursaries after receiving the admission letter of the institution they are to join.

“Students who require funding must make formal applications through the Higher Education Financing portal upon placement and getting admission letters to universities or colleges. The requirements and application process has been clearly mapped out in the portal,” added the cabinet secretary.

Those falling into the category of the vulnerable and the extremely needy will qualify for 100% funding for their studies in terms of scholarships and loans.

Those categorised as the needy and the less needy will cater for 7% of their tuition costs out of pocket, while the government will provide 93% of funding.

The needy and the less needy will also qualify to apply for the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) as the government will assess the students on a case-by-case basis before awarding them.

Other funding avenues

However, students joining private universities are not eligible for the government scholarship fund but can get help from HELB loans issued by the government.

The same applies to students who will join public universities through Self-Sponsored Programmes. This new model will not affect continuing students as they will receive funding based on the existing model.

The new funding model seeks to ensure accountability and transparency in the application and funding of students joining higher institutions of learning.

Among other things, the applicant’s family socio-economic background, affirmative action which will give priority to those living with disability, orphans and those from marginalised areas as well as gender parity will be considered for the new model of funding.

Moreover, students will also be required to submit their parents’ tax filings to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA Pin) which will also be used to determine a household’s financial capacity to support its members.

Relief amid funding crisis

The launch of the portal follows the head of state’s 3 May 2023 directive that signalled overhauling the higher education model of funding for students to be responsive to the needs of students and the cost of the different programmes they took.

This comes at a time when the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service has placed students in various institutions they had applied for based on merit.

Out of the 870,561 KCSE class of 2022 students who were eligible for placement in universities and colleges in the country, some 140,107 were placed in university programmes, 144,500 were placed in TVET and 560 in secondary Teacher Training Colleges.

The government has increased funding for universities by almost US$210.55 million to US$593.76 million in the current financial year as loans and grants.

This will see the allocation for TVETs jump to US$70.18 million in the current fiscal year 2023-24 from US$36.49 million in the previous year.

The former funding of university education has been based on the differentiated unit cost or DUC, model whereby funds are disbursed based on the number of undergraduate students registered on the regular programme and the course they undertake.

Under the DUC model, the government has been funding 80% of the course, whereas the student funds the remaining 20%, but the model has not been viable as the government has been reducing the percentage over the years, resulting in some institutions sinking to huge debts and being cash-strapped.

However, experts have said that the new funding method will be a sigh of relief to some universities as they will have a chance to exploit other revenue streams to avoid further sinking in debt.