Why Kenyan students aren’t flocking to US

Thursday April 14 2016



The number of Kenyans currently studying in the US is less than half the total of a decade ago, a report released recently shows.

US universities enrolled 3,072 Kenyans in the 2014/15 academic year -- 4 per cent fewer than in the previous year, according to the New York-based Institute of International Education.

More than 7,000 Kenyans were studying in the US in 2014/15. That sizable contingent represented a continuation of the vibrant Kenya-US exchange that had brought notables such as Barack Obama Snr, Wangari Maathai and Uhuru Kenyatta to US higher education institutions.

But Kenya’s academic ties to the US have been fraying while other African countries’ links to US universities have been expanding.

Kenya now ranks as the third largest source of students in the US from Africa, having been eclipsed by Ghana, which has seen its numbers grow steadily in recent years. Nigeria ranks as by far the largest sending country in all of Africa, with 9,494 of its nationals studying in the US -- a nearly 20 per cent increase from the previous year’s total.

The causes for the drop in the number of Kenyans seeking degrees in the US are said to include the fall in the shilling’s exchange rate against the dollar and the emergence of high-quality academic alternatives in Kenya.

“Fewer Kenyans are getting funds from abroad to help send their students to the US for study,” Peggy Blumenthal, a senior counsellor at the institute, said.

She has also pointed to a rise in the number of “low-cost Kenyan universities offering quality education.” There are now 24 private universities and seven public universities in Kenya — a substantial increase in recent years.