Players in the education sector have called for a review of fees for the University of Malawi and proposed an increase to at least K100,000 per year from the current K25,000 per student.
Civil Society Education Coalition (Cisec) executive director Benedicto Kondowe said it was about time that the fees structure be reviewed because it had become too expensive for government to fund tertiary education.
In his budget statement, Minister of Finance Ken Lipenga said government was spending between K1 million and K1.5 million per student, way above the contribution of K25,000 per student when private universities are charging fees in the range of K300,000 per year.
Public universities were allocated over K10 billion in the 2012/2013 national budget.
"As a nation, we will have to make hard decisions on this matter if we are to continue providing quality university education. To this effect, the government has set up a committee to review and recommend appropriate levels of University Student contribution," Lipenga said in his statement.
An adjustment , Lipenga said, would ensure that Unima colleges have reasonable resources to cover their expenses and create a conducive learning environment.
Kondowe said he was in support of an upward adjustment but structured at different levels so that some students pay 100 per cent of the fees while others pay half or a quarter.
"Government has been subsidizing students very capable of paying the K25,000 and this has been a big loss to government. We aren't saying the student loans should be scrapped off but there should be better mechanisms of carefully and objectively screening needy students which hasn't been the case in the last decade," Kondowe said.
He said K120,000 was a reasonable starting point for an adjustment in university fees taking into account the critically poor economic indicators.
He urged the review committee which is yet to be established to conduct a
systematic assessment of the fee structure in the country and also determine economic capabilities of Malawians to pay public university tuition.
Education advocate based in Zambia Limbani Nsapato also supported a hike in the fees but not at the expense of the poor.
He said the loan scheme should be maintained and managed by Malawi Savings Bank (MSB) as directed last year.
"In terms of the fees range, given the fact that studies show 90 per cent of students are from the wealthiest quintile, who are able to pay over K50,000 per term in private secondary schools, I could look at a minimum of K60,000 per semester to around K100,000 per semester," he said.
Mzuzu University students went on strike this week demanding their book allowance which MSB is yet to pay out because it did not get the remittance from Treasury.