University of Rwanda last week announced the increase of tuition fees for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses, saying this was done to improve quality of education without the institution incurring losses.
In a circular, Jean-Pierre Nkuranga, the acting vice-chancellor for finance and administration, said the new tuition fee for STEM programmes is Rwf1.5 million per year while for non-STEM programmes the tuition remains Rwf600,000.
Science students have been paying Rwf900,000 a year.
The revision takes effect next academic year, which begins next month.
"All students are required to abide by the above structure otherwise their names will not appear on class attendance and examination lists and they will be excluded from accessing the university services such as library," the circular reads in part.
The tuition fees can be paid in three installments, according to the officials.
Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Prof. Nelson Ijumba, the deputy vice-chancellor for academic affairs and research, said the decision was informed by a study that showed excessive expenditure on science programmes, which was affecting other programmes at the institution.
The decision affects both government sponsored and private students.
But The New Times has learnt that the greatest burden of the increase will be borne by Government since students it sponsors will be required to pay back less than half of the fees after graduation.
Prof. Ijumba said government-sponsored students will refund as loan Rwf600,000 times the number of years studied while the other Rwf900,000 is top-up by government and will not be reimbursed post-graduate (after studies).
The current tuition structure was effected last year, a raise from Rwf600,000.
"Studying science is costly. Even Rwf1.5 million is a compromise. According to a study, some programmes in medicine can cost as much as Rwf2 million but after discussions with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, we agreed on that compromise," he said.
Boosting quality education
Ijumba said that while the raise has financial implications on parents and government, it was necessary to boost the quality of education.
"As a university, we feel we are going to get income that is close to what we are spending in terms of offering these programmes, so it is going to be a relief. We are not going to be incurring too much expenses in terms of offering science programmes," he added.
Students, parents speak out
Some students and parents who spoke to The New Times said they were surprised by the increase, which comes a month before the academic year starts. They say it is hard to raise almost double of what they have been paying.
"This is a huge amount we are required to come up with, I am not sure we can get it. Besides, this is far much more than what private universities charge. My family and I have considered moving to a private university," said Claude Maniriho, a fourth year student of Computer Sciences.
Immaculée Mukatwari, a mother in Rwamagana District, said she will not be able to raise the fees as even the current Rwf900,000 was prohibitive.
"This is beyond my means and I have no hope of paying. I wanted my child to study at the University of Rwanda but I am now considering other alternative because I will no longer afford it," she said.