Clarification on Summer 2020 semester fees

Dear USIU-Africa Students,

I have noted with sadness that many of you are unhappy about the fee structure that we have in place for the Summer semester. If our letter outlining our fee structure upset you, I am deeply regretful, as that was never our intention. I am writing to you today to give you more clarity on the situation and some insights into our operations in order for us to find a way forward together.

Before I go into that, I would like to start by giving thanks to all of you and the whole USIU-Africa community that have banded together in unity during the global Coronavirus pandemic. I am proud of how we have advised and partnered with the Government of Kenya on educational matters surrounding this national health crisis. I am proud of our faculty experts from infectious disease scientists, to business and innovation researchers, to mental health professionals all giving advice across the continent during these challenging times. I am especially proud of how seamlessly you and faculty moved all your learning online making use of Blackboard and multiple other leading technologies. I am proud of our many staff supporting students by still coming to campus and working remotely every day.

But during this global Covid-19 pandemic, we know a lot of families are faced not only with health emergencies, but also economic difficulty and the ensuing fear and uncertainty that these times have created. We understand your pain. We desperately want to help you.

However, here is our challenge. USIU-Africa is a non-profit university. We do not make extra margins for profits. In fact, your school fees alone do not cover all the costs of your education. We also rely on donors to fund the gap so we can bring you international quality education affordably. So, we do not have the necessary funds to cover costs if we were to just reduce or eliminate all your fees. The only way we could achieve this would be to terminate your faculty and staff, but then who would still teach you and support you? Of course, we do not want to harm our employees during this crisis who try so hard to instruct your classes and help you to achieve your academic goals.

We have spent hours reviewing and tweaking financial projections to see how we can support you while still delivering a robust academic curriculum and not abandoning your lecturers and staff. While we have seen that our electricity costs, internet costs, clinic medicine dispensing, and cleaning costs have significantly reduced and our security costs have also slightly lowered because we need less guards when we are not in session, but we still do need ample security on campus to protect your infrastructure for when we do indeed reopen. While some costs have lowered, we have also incurred other costs. These include library costs that have risen because we have to purchase e-textbooks for your course texts and pay for subscriptions that you can access online anywhere anytime through our library portal. Those international subscriptions and international software, like Blackboard and CX, are extremely expensive, but are crucial for your learning. In fact, it’s because we made such heavy investments in our electronic infrastructure that we were better placed than other universities to transition to remote teaching and learning at this time.

In addition to these costs, we are also losing about 7 percent of our revenue which comes from the provision of auxiliary services such as housing, laundry and cafeteria income. Even so, the vast majority of our operating costs are in our faculty and staff, who are the backbone of our institution. In our desire to help you, we do not in turn want to hurt them or compromise the quality of your education.

Already, it broke our hearts when we had to let some staff go who were casual workers and also not renew some staff contracts. But we also need to find ways of reducing your fees this summer.

Therefore, these cost reductions have enabled us to eliminate two of the three sets of fees mandated for every student. The medical center fee (Kshs. 2,000) and the student activities fee (Kshs.1, 000) will be waived. However, the library fee will be maintained for reasons explained above. IT and lab fees, which are specific to those programs, will be charged depending on the needs of the courses that will be offered during the Summer semester and will be communicated directly to the students in those programs.

I wish we could do more, but our lecturers and support staff continue to work to ensure that we provide a seamless experience during this time. We do applaud the many faculty who have volunteered to teach extra classes for free and staff who have volunteered to work extra hours for free because they are concerned about you, our students. But we still need to pay them their basic salaries and their health insurance during these uncertain times.

Additionally, we are still looking at other ways to help you. We have launched aggressive campaigns with our faculty and staff writing grant proposals to donors to appeal for funding that can indeed go towards even more scholarships than usual for those of you struggling during this time. If you are facing extreme hardship at this time, please reach out and we will work with you to see if there is any way in which we can use our limited resources to support you in your learning journey.

And if you have any great ideas on how we can make things better for you, from additional online support to funding support or community support, we would be delighted to hear from you and consider your thoughts and how we can implement them for you.

In conclusion, during the summer semester, it is our ambition to continue our robust industry-leading international learning online and move back to face-to-face classes when the Government of Kenya eases national crisis restrictions.

As a society and a university community, we will overcome this Covid-19 pandemic. We will thrive. We will continue to provide the best international education at the most affordable prices of any American accredited tertiary institution in the world. We are here for you. We exist for you. You are our mission, vision, heart, and soul. We look forward to May 11th when we start the summer semester with you so your education can truly take you places.

United Together.

Prof. Paul Zeleza

Vice Chancellor

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