Great expectations of high quality education are held by many people due to a high demand of tertiary education in private Kenyan universities. Higher education in Kenya has experienced a lot of numerical growth of the number of universities chartered. As of November 2015, Kenya had a total of 70 chartered universities. Of these, 17 were private chartered ones which had grown in number from 3 to 17 in just two decades (CUE 2015, Chacha 2004,4). That notwithstanding, private universities face numerous challenges, which if not addressed, their sustainability will be threatened. This paper therefore seeks to explore the challenges encountered by selected private universities in Kenya, in implementing strategies that would lead to a financially sustainable university. These challenges were classified into two categories: the internal and external challenges. The internal challenges, experienced from within the university included: inadequate finances, university leadership and structures while the external ones include: government funding, government regulations and donor support. Qualitative grounded theory design was used in which an interview guide and a self-developed interview schedule were used in data collection. Twenty respondents were involved from four theological private universities. A fifth university was used for a pilot study. Data was organized manually and analyzed qualitatively through the use of codes and formation of categories. The strategies utilized were: students’ recruitment, internal and external funding, program development, review and diversification. The findings show that different universities are engaging in different strategies without much success in terms of income generated. This was attributed to the many internal and external challenges being faced by these universities. Therefore, this study proposed a financial sustainability system that is based on grounded theory which recommends the need to prioritize income generating strategies – developing, reviewing and diversifying revenue streams (input activities) that will generate adequate income to overcome the challenges in the system that are a major impediment to implementation of activities (output) that would lead to establishment of a financially sustainable university. This paper concludes by suggesting ways of developing, reviewing and diversifying revenue streams that will enhance the financial sustainability of the sampled universities. Moreover, it recommends that universities should develop more creative strategies that are not yet in place, review their status and also diversify their strategies to achieve financial sustainability.
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