Kenyan Students Drop US Dream for Local Colleges

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The number of Kenyan students enrolling in institutions of higher learning in the United States has dropped by half over the past decade, following the emergence of education opportunities locally.

According to data released by the Institute of International Education (IIE) on Tuesday, a total of 3,898 students from Kenya enrolled in universities in America last year compared to 4,666 in the 2010/2011 academic year.

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IIE, which is a non-profit organisation that tracks the number of international students in the US and the number of Americans who choose to study out of that country said this has happened at a time when the total number of international students rose by 5.7 per cent to 764,495 from 723,249 over the same period.

In the 2002/2003 academic year, which is around the time when Mwai Kibaki took over from former president Daniel arap Moi, a total of 7,862 students from Kenya enrolled in universities in America but this number has steadily been declining over the past 10 years to a level last seen between 1996 and 1998 when enrollments outside this country were going up.

Other countries which have in the past sent a large number of students to America that saw significant declines are India, South Korea and Japan.

“The factors driving these declines may include global and home country economic factors, growing higher education opportunities at home and stronger employment opportunities at home after graduation,” said IIE in a statement.

The organisation said the international exchanges in all the 50 states in America contributed approximately Sh1.9 trillion ($22.7 billion) to the US economy last year adding that international education has had a positive economic and social impact globally.

Dominic Makawiti, the vice chancellor of Maseno University said the cost of going to study abroad has escalated and that Kenyan students have more opportunities locally due the increase in the number of universities hence more were either choosing to study locally.

Kenya currently has a total of seven public universities, 15 public university constituent colleges, 14 chartered private universities, four private university constituent colleges, 13 universities with letters of interim authority and two registered private universitiesaccording to the commission for Higher Education.

“I think there is increased access to higher education. Today, for example, you can do a Bachelors and Masters at Homa Bay. You do not need to board an aeroplane. Secondly the cost added to high interest rates on loans if you choose to take one to educate someone abroad, it does not make economic sense,” said Prof Makawiti.

He said local universities have adopted technology and this has made it convenient for students, particularly for those who are working so that they do not have to leave their places of work to finish and submit certain aspects of learning such as assignments.

HE said that the 5.7 per cent increase was largely driven by strong increases in the number of students from China and Saudi Arabia, particularly at the undergraduate level adding that the increase of students from Saudi Arabia was due to Saudi government scholarshipswhich are supporting these students.

The number of students from Kenya, enrolling for undergraduate degrees dropped by 21.4 per cent to 2,145 from 2,728, while those enrolling for graduate degrees dropped by 10.7 per cent to 1,216 from 1,361.

Dr X. N. Iraki, an economics lecturer at the University of Nairobi’s School of Business said that over the ten year period the United States has tightened its immigration rules and this has discouraged students from Kenya from going to study there.

He said that destinations such as South Africa and Australia have also emerged as stiff competitors for the United States offering an alternative to local students who want to study abroad.

“There is also the effect of parallel degree programs whose enrollments have really gone up,” said Dr Iraki.

The South Africa High Commission in Nairobi, which had issued 442 student visas as at June this year issued a total of 711 study permits last year up from 598 in 2010 while the British High Commission last year issued a total of 1,090 student visas up from 1,014 in 2010.

Source: Business Daily Africa

 

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