The recent wave of fee adjustments witnessed in some federal government-owned universities has been attributed to the need to cover accommodation and utilities expenses rather than the Student Loans Act, according to the Federal Ministry of Education.
In a clarification, the Ministry affirmed that these universities opted for fee hikes as a means of mitigating the financial demands posed by providing accommodation and essential utilities for students.
Andrew Adejo, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, elucidated this standpoint on Tuesday while addressing an ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives that focuses on the implementation of the student loan legislation.
Notably, certain federal government-operated universities have experienced fee increments, while others have hinted at the possibility of such actions.
Mr. Adejo highlighted that in light of the dissolution of governing councils within these institutions, the Ministry had assumed responsibility for sanctioning fee adjustments in the absence of these councils.
The Permanent Secretary emphasized that the Ministry’s endorsement of the University of Lagos’s fee increment was a unique circumstance, triggered by the institution’s proposal and the absence of active governing councils. However, this endorsement was halted following President Bola Tinubu’s declaration that federal government-owned universities would remain tuition-free.
Explaining the rationale behind the universities’ financial decisions, Mr. Adejo stated, “What they (universities) collect is charges to cover the cost of accommodation, ICT, power, among others. It is the Governing Councils of the Universities that have the power to approve such charges for them.”
He further clarified, “The only university that increased charges after the signing of the Student Loans Act is the University of Lagos. They came to the ministry with a proposal to increase their charges because all governing councils were dissolved, and we gave them approval.”
The situation took a different trajectory following a resolution from the House and a directive from the President, both of which curbed any further fee increments.
In response to the financial challenges faced by some universities, Mr. Adejo cited the instance of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, where the Ministry intervened to settle the institution’s N1 billion electricity debt.
The trend of fee adjustments gained momentum when the University of Lagos management increased fees for the 2023/2024 academic session. Despite the federal government’s stance on tuition-free education, certain universities have been justifying fee increments through the label of “charges” to cater to operational costs.
In conclusion, the Chairman of the Committee, Teseer Ugbor, expressed reservations about the sufficiency of the one percent statutory provision of government revenue to fund the Student Loan Act signed in June. He suggested potential amendments to increase the allocation to three percent, a step to be considered by the House.
This development comes in the backdrop of the evolving landscape of Nigerian higher education and its financial mechanisms, as institutions navigate challenges in an ever-changing academic environment.