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Private Universities struggle to adjust fees structure on e-learning for continuing students

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Private universities are stuck on whether or not to increase tuition as they move to embrace Open, Distance and E-Learning-ODEL system to ensure learning under the Covid-19 lockdown. The universities have made heavy investments in learning management systems, equipment and software purchases.

Dr. Mouhamad Mpezamihigo, the Vice Chancellor Kampala International University-KIU says that with the heavy investments they have made at a time when they are on their knees, they would wish to increase tuition but they are held back by the agreements they made with students during admission which makes it difficult to alter the fees structure midway.

He says the matter is due for discussion with students before a final decision is made.

Professor Maud Kamatenesi Mugisha, the Vice-Chancellor Bishop Stuart University notes that although the institutions are currently financially weak, they shouldn’t transfer the weight on continuing students as the ODEL system is a long-lasting investment.

He observes that Bishop Stuart University might not hike or offer a reduction of tuition for continuing students. Professor Rev. Fr. John Chrysostom Maviri, the Vice Chancellor Uganda Martyrs’ University notes that the issue of tuition is under review.

He says the University will soon carry out an assessment to understand the unit cost of each programme on e-learning which will inform their decision whether to increase or decrease tuition for continuing students. He reveals that they have already resolved to scrap off some functional fees at the moment.

Prof. Maviiri says there is need for government to provide low-interest rates to universities which are financially stressed to avoid transferring the pressure to students. He says they have already suggested some of the ways this can be achieved under their forum of private universities.

However, some universities like Victoria university have already taken a bold decision to shoulder the burden and give their students a 50 percent discount. Policy analysts and educationists have already advised government to scrap the Over the Top Tax –OTT for social media users and zero rate education platforms like university websites as one of the means to make e-learning effective and cost-friendly.

Allen Nakakembo, a student at Uganda Martyrs’ University- Nkozi argues that there should be a reduction in fees given the fact that students will no longer be using university facilities and will also incur costs of acquiring software and data bundles for connection.

“I don’t see why we should pay the same amount as we did during the face to face lectures. We are also incurring costs. The internet is expensive, imagine if you are to spend two hours on each of the six units in a week, you will require not less than 20GB. That is already more than Shillings 80,000 per week,” Nakakembo observed.

She asked universities to reduce the tuition and shrink nonessential expenditures at the campus since students will not be there. Joel Masagazi, a member of the ODEL development committee at Uganda Christian university says tuition remains a big issue to the university management.

“We are yet to get approved for this ODEL system but after being approved, the next thing to be looked at will certainly be tuition. It is a critical matter and has been left for the council to decide and we are hoping that whatever they decide will be a favor to the university and the students,” says Masagazi.

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