Tough times for poor students as tuition fees go up by 200%

A number of poor students in federal government-run universities in Nigeria are facing disruptions in their studies in 2023 after many institutions increased their tuition fees by 100% to 200%. While the increment may force some underprivileged students out of school, others may have to defer their studies for at least a year.

The universities justified the hike on poor government funding of tertiary education and rising inflation in the country, which shot up to 21.47% – the highest in 17 years – in November 2022, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Institutions that have announced the increment include the University of Uyo in Akwa Ibom state; the Federal University of Lafia in Nasarawa state; Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike in Abia state, the Federal University, Dutse, in Jigawa state and the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) in Borno state, among others.

The management of the Federal University, Dutse, in a December 2022 memo signed by the Deputy Registrar (Academics) Kamal Habib Muhammad, announced a 200% increase in its tuition fees. It said, however, that payments can be made in two instalments and discounts will be given to staff members’ children.

“This is to inform you that the Senate at its 57th (extraordinary) meeting held on Thursday, 10th of November, 2022 considered and approved the following: 200% increment in schedule of fees and components for undergraduate students for the 2022-23 academic session and other charges,” a part of the memo stated.

Linda Jimoh, a political science student, who has just completed her second year at the university, lamented the tuition fees, saying that she had even found it difficult to pay the old fees of NGN37,000 (about US$82).

“It has now been increased to NGN97,000 [about US$214]. I had to work as a sales rep for about three months to raise the old tuition fee. When the school resumes in April, not every student will come back to school due to the new fees,” she said.

Also, UNIMAID, in a memo addressed to students, said the increase is due to “rising costs of teaching and learning materials as well as laboratory consumables and reagents brought about by market forces”.

The memo said the university governing council reached the decision at its 157th meeting held on 1 December 2022, adding that foreign students would pay an additional US$1,500 as fees.

A student of English and Literary Studies, Ibrahim Ismail, who is about to start his third year at UNIMAID, complained that he will now pay more than 100% more.

“I was paying NGN25,000 before, but it is now NGN65,000. I am an orphan doing small business on the campus to sponsor myself. There are many poor students like me and some are already planning to defer their studies for a session [one year],” he told University World News.

Tuition fee hike amid high poverty

The increment is coming on the back of worsening poverty levels due to galloping inflation and high unemployment.

The NBS, in November 2022, said 133 million Nigerians – more than half of about 206 million population – live in multidimensional poverty.

The World Bank, in March 2022, also noted that as many as four in 10 Nigerians live below the national poverty line.

The majority of Nigerians attend government-run universities, especially federal ones, due largely to lower tuition fees.

According to a 2022 report, out of 1,854,288 students, 1,206,825 (65%) are in federal government-run universities, 544,936 (29%) in state government-run universities and 102,500 (6%) in universities run by the private sector.

Students, unions kick against hike

Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has rejected the fee hike, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to, “as a matter of urgency, intervene and stop the plan before it degenerates into a crisis in the nation’s ivory towers”.

NANS, in a letter addressed to Buhari earlier in January, said the universities are not only “inconsiderate, but also insensitive to the plight of their students”, adding that the majority of students who attend public universities are from financially disadvantaged homes and would not be able to afford such an increment.

Professor Salihu Moyosore Ajao, the chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Ilorin chapter, said that, during the eight-month strike by the union in 2022, the government had mulled over the idea of increasing the tuition fees to address the poor funding of universities, but the union had rejected it.

He said: “We have warned people not to trust the government on this matter and now they are complaining. ASUU has said ‘no’ several times to [the] commercialisation of [the] educational system, especially tertiary institutions in the country, but people see us as rascals and antagonists to the government.

“Now, the implications [of the increment] will be for the poor parents and their children to decide, not ASUU. ASUU has said ‘no’ on several occasions to increases in tuition fees because poor parents are already paying more than enough.”