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Education ministry on why fees are increased

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By Abraham Adekunle

Student Loans Act wasn’t a catalyst for higher fees.

Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Andrew Adejo, has said that the latest increment in fees by some federal government-owned universities is not connected with the Student Loans Act. Instead, he said that the institutions increased their fees to cover the cost of accommodation and utilities. The secretary disclosed this on August 15, 2023, while appearing before an ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives on the implementation of the student loan law.

Some federal universities, such as University of Lagos, University of Benin, etc., have recently increased their fees, and others have also indicated plans to do the same. According to Adejo, because of the dissolution of the governing councils of the institutions, the ministry had been in charge of approving fees increment in the absence of the councils. In June 2023, President Tinubu had made a pronouncement that the governing boards of all federal universities, polytechnics and colleges of education be dissolved. This affected all parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Education (FME).

Only UNILAG fee increment was approved by the ministry.

Adejo stated that the ministry only approved the request by the University of Lagos (UNILAG) for fees increment but stopped approving others after the president said that federal government-owned institutions remained tuition-free. While it is true that these government institutions remain tuition-free, the increment only affected obligatory fees such as for sports and healthcare. So, what these universities collect are charges to cover the cost of accommodation, ICT, power, among others. The secretary said that only the governing councils have the power to approve such charges.

So, they went to the ministry with a proposal to increase their charges because governing councils had been dissolved. The university was given the approval. “Immediately that was done, there was a resolution from the House stopping the increase of fees and the president also gave a directive stopping any increase in fees and that is where it is, even though several others have brought their proposals,” Mr. Adejo said. He stated that only UNILAG increased charges after the signing of the Student Loans Act. Schools were in a dire financial situation. For instance, the ministry had to bail Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria out of its N1 billion electricity debt.

Student loan legislation is part of Tinubu reforms.

In July 2023. The management of the University of Lagos increased its charges. The fees for the 2023/2024 academic session vary, but they have varied between N160,250 and N240,250 depending on course of study and level. Although the federal government insists on tuition-free in its universities, the management of schools have been citing “charges” to increase fees in their schools. Earlier in the year, other tertiary institutions in Nigeria including the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Edo State; University of Abuja (UNIABUJA) and the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) had increased their fees.

Tinubu had assented to the Act in June. The bill supports the establishment of the Education Loan Fund to provide interest-free loans for indigent Nigerians to fund higher education. This provision of loans to higher education students is part of Tinubu’s reforms for education as contained in his ‘Renewed Hope’ manifesto. However, the requirements for eligibility are quite steep. The household of the indigent student has to earn less than N500,000 per year, the equivalent of about N47,000 per month, among other factors.

Committee chairman said education allocation not sufficient.

Chairman of the ad-hoc committee, Teseer Ugbor, in his speech, expressed reservations on the Student Loan Act signed in June. He noted that it is unclear if the statutory provision of one percent of government revenue is sufficient to fund the scheme. He stated that the House will consider amendments to the existing Act to increase the allocation to three percent. Nigeria is yet to meet UNESCO recommended benchmark. Since 2015, UNESCO Member States have agreed on a level of educational funding of 4 to 6 percent of GDP or 15 to 20 percent of public expenditure.

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