KIGALI - Private students at all higher learning institutions may be charged more than twice the amount of tuition fees they have been paying.
The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) has set the baseline for tuition fees at higher learning education at Frw530,000 and the maximum at Frw1,325,000 annually depending on the courses they undertake.
In a letter addressed to all tertiary institutions in January, the NCHE categorized tuition fees in six different bands.
Normally, Rwandan private university students have been paying Frw300, 000 annually, while only foreign students have been paying Frw500, 000.
But now under the new arrangement, private students in business, human, and social sciences are classified into the first category and will pay Frw530, 000.
Students in courses of education, journalism and mathematics will have to pay Frw600, 000. Those undertaking engineering, health and computer courses will have to part with up to Frw747, 000, while those offering medicine will pay the highest, equivalent to Frw1, 325,000.
The Director of Academic Services at the National University of Rwanda (NUR), Dr Aloys Ruzibiza, said that NCHE’s decision on the tuition fee for private students was a result of consultations between the Ministry of Education, the National Council for Higher Education and public institutions of higher learning.
But the implementation of the new tuition is dependent on the universities themselves.
For instance at NUR, officials have not rushed to implement the whole decision but decided that first year entrants pay Frw530, 000 regardless of the faculties they are in effective this year.
KIST decides tomorrow
But the administration ruled that other students continue to pay the normal amount until next year when they will all be subjected to the new fees.
The Rector of Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) Prof. Chrysologue Karangwa told The New Times yesterday that he received the NCHE document on the new fees.
He however said the institute was yet to adopt the recommended fees, adding that its board of directors would discuss the document tomorrow.
“You will have to wait for the board’s decision,” he said when asked what likely decision the institution would take on the matter.
The Vice Rector in charge of Academics at Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) George Njoroge declined to comment yesterday.
Asked what they based on to set the new fees, the Executive Director of NCHE, Prof. Abbott Pamela, said yesterday that the decision was reached after the council carried out a technical review on how much a student needs to pay in Rwandan higher learning institutions to get quality education.
She however said the council did not have to make consultations on the new fees because “it is a technical matter which does not need consultations.”
“The baseline fee is Frw530, 000 for social sciences, and that is the course most private students are doing, while the highest fee is Frw1, 325,000, which is for medicine. There are no private students in sciences,” Pamela said.
She said the government spends Frw1.2m on a government-sponsored varsity student in social sciences and Frw1.5m for a student in sciences. “That is no where near what private students are paying currently.”
She however said that the final decision on whether to apply the new fees rests with each university’s board of directors.
“They are the ones to decide whether to follow that system or not. But in our review of higher learning institutions, will be looking at whether they are providing the standard quality education, which we think can only be achieved with those rates,” she said.
New fees “unrealistic”
However, the new fees have been criticized by many students who consider the recommended amount as unaffordable and intended to discourage private learners.
NUR’s students’ guild president, Geoffrey Gasasira, said the decision is unrealistic considering private students’ financial situation.
“It is clear that the (Education) ministry didn’t conduct any survey before,” Gasasira said recently. He said that private students will not be able to pay the newly instituted tuition fee because they were even encountering difficulties raising the current fee.
“They have been paying in installments even with the current fees,” he said.
Many university private students said the new rules would jeopardize their education since they had budgeted for their varsity education based on the current tuition.
Some first year students, who have now been told to pay the new tuition, have threatened to demand for a refund of their money.
“Is it possible for one to recover our money?” Beatrice Uwineza, a first year student, asked during a recent general assembly with the guild president.
Théogène Kamali, a second year private student in Social Sciences and Administration, said it would be difficult for his elder brother, who pays his tuition, to afford the new amount.
“It is very discouraging. It’s incredible,” he lamented.
And although he is classified under the first category for Frw530, 000, Kamali doesn’t think his brother will manage to raise that considering other extra expenses on meals and accommodation.
In all, he estimated that he would pay a combined Frw830, 000 for tuition, accommodation and food, in the next academic year alone. But NURofficials say the new tuition will help boost the institution’s performance.
Dr Ruzibiza said the increment will help to improve on the quality of education by enabling NUR to buy new materials and hire more experienced lecturers.