New Telegraph

UNILAG’s 400% fees increase rattles parents, students

hese are not the best of times for parents and students in the public universities in the country as they should be prepared to face a more difficult times ahead. Parents and students are groaning under the heavy burden of school fees hike recently announced by the authorities of the various universities, particularly at a time when the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government is taking its toll on Nigerians’ living standard. Recently, the authorities of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) announced an increment of the university’s fees by 400 per cent, a development that has not only raised concern and anxiety among stakeholders, especially parents and students, but has also continued to generate controversies.

New fees regime

The increment in the school fees was announced was the major outcome of a meeting of the university management team, led by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Folashade Ogunsola and the nonteaching staff unions, comprising including the Senior Staff Association (SSANU); Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the National Association of Technologists (NAAT), which took place on July 20, 2023. As contained in the minutes of the meeting issued and signed by the Secretary of the meeting, Mr Akpan Obono Otu, under the new fees regime that will take-off from next academic session on October 3, 2023, returning students are now to pay between N100,750 and N190,250, per academic session, depending on courses of study, while undergraduates in medical and dentistry will pay the highest. In the new charges, which the Vice-Chancellor explained were set nationally, students without lab or studio use will pay now N100,750, while those with lab or studio use will pay N140,250; and undergraduates in the College of Medicine would pay N190,250. Prior to the new increment, New Telegraph learnt that the students paid N59,500 for students without the use of lab or studio and N69,500 for students with the use of lab and studio, respectively, in the just concluded 2021/2022 academic session. Under the new charges the students are to pay the following: toxicology formerly N5,000 now N10,000 per student; obligatory fee (N25,000); students ID card was increased from N1,000 to N5,000; Results Verification which initially was N5,000 is now N5,500; Examination fee was raised from N2,500 to N15, 000; while the sport levy which used to be N1,000.00 is now N10,000; medical fee in which a student paid N5,000 before is now N10,000; Utility/ service N20,000; Information Technology Entrepreneurship N15,000; endowment fee N5,000; Insurance accreditation N5,750; and Laboratory fee N49,975. According to the management, the Federal Ministry of Education, National Universities Commission (NUC) and the University of Lagos Parent’s Forum had since been availed copies of the moderated fees. In the new fees regime, new students, the category of undergraduate who do not engage in laboratory usage will pay N126,325; and those who engage in the usage of the laboratories will pay N176,325; while all students either returning or fresh students are to pay N20,000 obligatory fee. Meanwhile, final year students will now pay the sum of N30,000 for an in-house fee, which covers convocation gown, fee and brochure. According to the moderated fees, Library usage fee has been increased from N2,500 to N15,000; student handbook from N1,000 to N5,000; Information Technology and Entrepreneurship from N2,500 to N15,000; endowment fund now N5,000; matriculation fee was increased from N1,000 to N5000; while Insurance fee is N5,000; and accreditation fee from N3,000 to N5,825. The charges on hostel accommodation and various departmental levies are not captured in the above figures, though New Telegraph learnt that the hostel fee has been moved from N25,000 to N80,000 per bed-space.

Reasons for increment

The Vice-Chancellor, who said the university is not charging tuition fees despite the humongous charges, however, noted that non-availability of funds to finance projects, a huge deficit of N1.2 billion incurred yearly by the university since 2020, and the present economic situation propelled the fees increase. “UNILAG has been running a deficit budget to the tune of N1.2 billion yearly in the last three years and can no longer cope particularly with the economic reality in the country,” the ViceChancellor had stated at the meeting. According to her, the normal annual income accruable to the university from its auxiliary funds stands at N5.6 billion, while its expenditure is N6.8 billion, leaving a deficit gap of N1.2 billion yearly. Ogunsola said the university could no longer cope with the students paying the same fees they have been paying since 20 years ago, which is about N25,000 per session, hence the decision to jerk up the fees. She noted that all stakeholders including students and staff unions were being carried along in order to arrive at the new fees regime. However, in an official statement issued on Friday, tagged: “Adjusted Obligatory Fees for New and Returning Undergraduate Students,” the management reviewed the obligatory fees (mandatory charges for an academic session/year) for new and returning undergraduate students of the university after careful deliberations with the university stakeholders, comprising students, parents/guardians, staff unions, alumni, among others. The adjustment in fees, the statement added, which would take effect from the First Semester of 2023/2024 academic session, is in view of the prevailing economic realities and the need for the university to be able to meet its obligations to its students, staff, and municipal service providers, among others. The statement reads in part: “It is also pertinent to note that the university has not increased its obligatory fees in recent years. The management, therefore, seeks the kind understanding and support of students and other stakeholders with the assurance of its commitment towards ensuring that students get the best learning experience. The Vice-Chancellor further stated: “The university financial purse is literally on autopilot. The last three years has been awkwardly difficult in terms of finance for the institution. It is no longer news that the University of Lagos tuition has not changed in the last 20 years, but the cost of managing education has skyrocketed astronomically. “Therefore, the university took a proactive step by engaging parents, students and members of staff that are parents in the university through the Dean of Students’ Affairs in January 2023.”

Unions’ reaction

Reacting to the development, the staff unions have kicked against the hike, as all the leadership of the unions did not support the increase in school fees. SSANU, however, pleaded for a reduction of the fees, pleading for a rebate for staff children as it is practiced in Distance Learning Institute (DLI).

While demanding for the modality for paying the new school fees, the ViceChancellor was quoted as saying that staff interest was protected, saying that was why the fee was pegged at the present amount against the initial N300,000 for returning and N500,000 for the fresh students On its part, NAAT stated that the increase in school fees is inevitable, but sought judicious use of the new fees, even as it called on the management to sponsor brilliant indigent students through the alumni and grants.

ASUU kicks

The National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, while reacting to the increment in a telephone interview with New Telegraph on Friday, said the union was not surprised about what is happening in the university system presently. Osodeke, who said that ASUU had long been warning Nigerians about the Federal Government’s plans to introduce high tuition fees in the Nigerian university system, which the union has over the years been kicking against, stated: “ASUU has given this early warning but nobody listened to us. Now, the reality has not only come to the open, but is staring us in the face.

“This is what ASUU has foreseen a long time ago, and as a union, we have been in the struggle against this and other challenges in the university system in the last seven years, but no one heeded to the union’s warning. “Unfortunately, the parents and students that we are fighting for and are expected to support ASUU in the struggle, are the ones fighting the union and calling ASUU names. The union has now been vindicated.”

Though representatives of the institution’s chapter of ASUU were not at the Thursday’s meeting, the Chairman of the union, Prof Kayode Adebayo, said the management had earlier met with the union, where the union was briefed about what the university is doing and had done. “Such briefing is a normal thing in the university community,” he stated, stressing that the union was not invited to determine fees or service charges for students.

He told New Telegraph that ASUU would never be a party to whether or not the management wants to charge fees for utilities or services, saying: “The management only provided and showed the union the table of what they are doing and the need to charge for utilities and services.” On his part, he noted that the position of ASUU consistently is that the union will not support introduction of fees in universities because the country has enough resources to train the students for free.

However, he added that as far as the union was concerned, it has no mandate to discuss the issue of the review of school fees in any university with any management. Adebayo, therefore, pointed out that ASUU’s position of “no to school fees increment” in any federal and state university in the country has not changed even till now, even as he further insisted that the Federal Government has money to fund university education adequately, but for lack of insincerity and political will of the successive leaders to do so.

NANS issues threat

Piqued by the increase in their school fees, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has vehemently kicked against the inconsiderate increment and threatened a nationwide protest to force the government and university managements to reverse the fees. NANS, which said “no to fees increment,” stated: “To us as students of UNILAG and every other public university nationwide, we say no to fees increment. This is a very difficult time economically for us and for our parents, and hence to increase fees is to add to our pains and we cannot accept it.

The student’s body in a statement issued its Public Relations Officer, Giwa Temitope on Saturday, called on President Bola Tinubu to, as a matter of urgency, prevail on the management of various federal universities in the country to jettison their plans to increase school fees and levies charged in the institutions. The students, however, threatened that should their call be ignored and universities hike their fees, and to enforce its implementation, the students would embark on nationwide protest and remain on the streets till their demand is met.

“The increment of school fees by the University of Lagos (UNILAG), as announced on Friday, and the planned increment by other federal universities across the country, and even for the federal government colleges, have shown that the current administration is insensitive to the plight of most Nigerians, who are going through difficult times,” NANS said. The union, which the student loan introduced by the Federal Government as nothing but a sham and a bait to lure Nigerian people into accepting increment in fees payment, saying that this should not justify fees increment in an economy with a high unemployment index. NANS, therefore, insisted that rather than give the students loans, the government should give them grants and scholarships.

The union further warned: “Our demand, therefore, is clear and simple and that is to tell all schools with the decision to increase their fees to suspend such a plan and those that have already announced theirs to reverse it with immediate effect. “Otherwise, we will embark on an all-round protest that will last till the Federal Government reverses the policy.”

Stakeholders’ position

The former Vice-Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and former Secretary General of the Committee of ViceChancellor of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU), Prof Michael Faborode, told New Telegraph in a telephone interview that “we need to be serious about education in this country.” Faborode, who noted that as a nation, we cannot eat our cake and have it, and that education cannot be free, said the Nigerians should be worried about the present state of the nation’s university education, adding that university education could have been used to turn around the fortunes of the country.

He said: “The nation is where it is today because of the poor quality of its university education. If we want quality, then university education cannot be free. We cannot continue to do things like this and expect any development. We must be ready to pay for it. “We are merely playing to the gallery. We all want quality university education, but the people are not ready to pay for it. People should be ready to pay for university education for the country to get value for it. “There are consequences for what we are doing with our university education as a nation. Rejoicing in the present state of our universities is like rejoicing in poverty and to remain in poverty. “Private universities such as Afe Babalola University, Covenant University and some others are doing well today because people are paying, and the institutions have resources to maintain and ensure their development in delivery quality services.”

Faborode, who recalled that the Student’s Loan was introduced by the Federal Government to cushion the effects of a new fees regime across all federal universities in the country on indigent students, said it is time “Nigerians stop wasting their resources and money on frivolities.” He, therefore, called on the Federal Government to initiate policies that would support Nigerians to mitigate the economic hardship, as well as the growth and development of the country. On the position of ASUU, the former Vice-Chancellor berated the union for its posture against introduction of fees in universities, saying the union should stop playing to the gallery. Speaking on the development, a Lagos State University (LASU) don, Prof Samuel Odewumi, hinted that the basic fact is that education is generally being grossly underfunded by the government, and which is more acute for tertiary education.

Though primary and secondary education levels have been taken care of largely by the private sector and parents have bought into it and accepted the burden of the school fees charged. He said not until recently when the private sector is being allowed to participate in the running of tertiary institutions, it was the responsibility of the government, saying that the government appears incapable of meeting the financial needs of the government-owned tertiary institutions. “Therefore, who picks the bills must be settled once and for all. The direction looks like it is going to be by parents and governments. This explains why the issue of the Students Loan Act came up early in the tenure of this administration,” Odewumi stated, stressing that the government should provide a safety net for the poor students to prevent drop out of students. “It is expected of the government to provide funding for the universities to augment their income to meet the ever-recurring outcry of the unions on campuses to eliminate the perennial strikes,” he noted, recalling that President Bola Tinubu promised to bring the incessant strikes to a permanent end. “This approach is then expected to give some leverage and responsibilities to each governing council to raise supporting fund and attend to them,” the don added.

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