High school fees, transport fares, others threaten students’ future

The prevailing harsh economic situation may threaten the academic future of many Nigerian students, an investigation by BusinessDaySunday has shown.

Following the high cost of living which is being experienced by individuals and many families, the pressure occasioned by high cost of goods and services may have begun to negatively affect students in institutions of higher learning.

With the proposed increase in all categories of fees payable by students in federal universities, the situation is expected to grow worse.

In the last three months, more than seven federal-owned universities have increased tuition fees.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s sweeping economic reforms which include the floating of the naira and removal of petrol subsidy have pushed up the prices of transportation across Nigeria.

Petrol sells between N600 and N800 per litre depending on which part of the country it is sold.

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Many students schooling in tertiary institutions outside their states of residence are adversely affected with inter-state transportation fares increasing astronomically.

Investigation by our correspondents shows that transportation companies have increased fares for inter-state fares astronomically.

For instance, a journey from Lagos to Port Harcourt in Rivers State which used to cost N15, 000, now goes for between N22, 000 and N26, 000.

Also, Lagos to Abia State which used to cost N12, 000 to N14, 000, now goes for N18, 000 to N27, 000 depending on the transport company.

Similarly, Lagos to Abuja which used to cost N17, 000 to N22, 000, now goes for between N23, 000 and N33, 000.

Lagos to Uyo, Akwa Ibom State which previously cost between N15, 500 and N23, 000, is now between N25, 000 and N35, 000.

Transport fares from Asaba, Delta State to Lagos have also risen to N16,000 from N10,000 while a journey from Asaba to Abuja is now N20,000 from N15,000 it used to be previously.

The increase in tuition fees affects both federal and state universities and ranges between 200 and 400 percent.

Some of the federal universities where tuition fees have been increased are University of Lagos (UNILAG) University of Maiduguri (UNIMAD), University of Uyo, (UNIYO), University of Calabar (UNICA), Federal University Dutse, Federal University, Lafia (FULafia) Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, among others.

Last week, the University of Lagos announced new tuition fees for undergraduate students in the institution.

Students of the institution previously paid N19, 000 but the management has fixed new fees at N190, 250 for students studying medicine while for courses that require laboratory and studio, students are to pay N140, 250.

The decision by the management of UNILAG raised apprehension among students and parents.

Many students said that the new tuition was unreasonable and unrealistic, noting that they cannot afford to pay such an amount with the prevailing harsh economic situation.

Checks by this medium showed that when similar tuition increase was announced at the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), some weeks ago, the Students Union Government (SUG) of the institution protested the increase and it was brought back to N33,000 from the earlier amount of N84,000.

There are concerns among Nigerians and some stakeholders that the new wave of increase may lead to students from poor homes who cannot afford the new rate of tuition fees dropping out from school.

A student from the University of Lagos, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Before the increase, many students were not even meeting up with the payment of school fees, while some had to wait till exam period before they could pay.

“It is common to see students on campus doing part-time jobs or engaged in businesses, while some often indulge in undesirable jobs to raise their tuition fees.”

Maureen Okon, 19, who just secured admission to the University of Uyo in Akwa Ibom State, but resides in Lagos, told BusinessDay Sunday that she narrowly missed her screening and had to postpone her journey twice because transport fares had increased more than 300 percent since the petrol subsidy removal was announced by President Tinubu.

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Maureen explained that her father had to borrow money before she could afford transport fares and also pay the tuition fees and other categories of levies for a fresher.

“It was not easy; I had to go and do screening in my department in school. I had to travel from Lagos to Uyo. When I learnt that transportation had added so much, I was scared because I knew how my father was able to even raise the money for my tuition fees.

“Now we have to pay more, he has to run around to meet friends for assistance. My mother went round too, because if I don’t go for the screening, I may lose the admission,” Maureen said.

A male student of University of Lagos (UNILAG) who spoke on condition of anonymity berated the management of the institution for increasing tuition fees at a time when there was a cost-of-living crisis in the country.

Chukwu noted that since the student union was proscribed with all forms of protests banned on the campus by the institution’s management, things have been difficult for students.

He said that new students are asked to sign indemnity forms upon admission to UNILAG, to stop them from protesting.

“We can’t pay the money they are talking about; it is unrealistic. We can’t protest in UNILAG, the student union is banned and new students are asked to sign indemnity forms. You can’t protest on campus.

“But we have adopted another means to protest and I can tell you they will hear from us soon. I am hoping they reduce it, but if not, we would see. A lot of students can’t pay, they are poor, and some are resorting to do all sorts of things to survive on campus. Personally, I don’t know how I am going to raise such money to pay, my father doesn’t have,” he said.

Several other students complained about the situation, while some advocated for the introduction of bursary to aid brilliant students who are not buoyant financially.

“It is sad because everything is just going up at the same time. I think if the tuition fees increase was to be done it should not have been so huge. My parents may be able to afford it but some can’t,” Tomi Adeniyi, a 300-level student in one of the federal universities, said.

Adeniyi further expressed fears that that the prevailing harsh economy and high cost–of-living crisis, coupled with the increased tuition fees may make many students resort to dirty things to survive on campus.

“With the state of the economy many students on campus here are barely managing and can’t even afford to eat two times a day. It may lead students to indulge in undesirable things to survive on campus. It is not everybody that is rich; I would plead with the government to please consider and reduce the fees,” she added.

A student of Higher National Diploma (HND), Mass Communication of Ogwashi-Uku Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State, who pleaded anonymity with

BusinessDaySunday, narrated that it has been difficult paying her school fees.

“As non-indigenes, we pay N70,000 as school fees and over N100,000 total expenses in the school while indigenes pay N90,000.

“Daily transport cost to and from school has also increased, coupled with cost of feeding and accommodation. Should the FG continue with the subsidy removal policy, I see our school authorities increasing the fees and I am afraid this could lead to alarming rate of students dropping out of school.

“Some students in school are either sponsored by their parents or relatives while some sponsor themselves. The pity aspect is that businesses and livelihoods are already impacted negatively in the country,” she said.

Femi Alabi, a final year student of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma with the hike in petrol pump price, which has consequently led to increase in consumables including food items and transportation, he will need to delay resumption for the new session.

“My parents are civil servants, and they are managing to send us to school with their meagre salary. They have asked me to wait a little bit so that they will be able to settle my younger sister’s school expenses. I do not have choice but to put my resumption on hold. Why is the government always punishing its citizens? They are just being insensitive to our plight with all these policies.

“Before now, it has not been easy travelling from Akure, my place of residence, to come to study in Ekpoma, Edo State. I do pay about N5,000 but currently I heard it is over N7000. You can see that the situation is growing from bad to worse, and education is gradually going out of the reach of the poor,” he said.

Ayomide Blessed, a student of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), said it’s not only about increasing tuition fees, the government needs to fix the educational system so as to raise the waning standards of the sector in the country.
“The sudden hike in tuition fees is really inconsiderate. Where do they expect people who budgeted N40,000 as tuition fee to suddenly get over N100,000 from?
“Education is one of the pillars that can build our country but our leaders are making it difficult for it to be accessible to the people. Today, students are struggling to learn; we have poor learning facilities, there are almost no practical equipment yet there’s a sudden hike in the fees,” Blessed said.

She also decried the rising cost of transportation, saying that it has further affected her budget for the semester.

“I’m currently on my Industrial Training programme, and it is not within my school axis. But, even as a student, where my only source of income comes from my parents, I would say things have really gotten tough.

“There are places I could easily get to with N500 to and fro, but it now costs up to N1000. Imagine deducting that amount from the allowances my parents give me for the days I go to where I am doing Industrial Training. Sometimes, before the week runs out, more than half of the money has been spent on transportation alone leaving little or nothing for my other personal needs.”

For Enabulele Adesuwa, an undergraduate of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), “many people are finding it difficult to afford the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, and even healthcare let alone the cost of education.

“The cost of transportation fare and cost of living is incredibly on the high side as at today. If the news of increment in tuition fees, as we heard in some quarters, were to be true, then this will affect the hopes of students from poor background as they might consider dropping out or not pursuing higher education.”

Oluseyi Dasilva, a student of University of Ilorin, said that the general economic downturn occasioned by the drastic increase in fuel subsidy removal has caused general increase in cost of transportation. He said that the development has negatively impacted their standard of living in school.

“From my house to park, it used to be N50, now it’s N100 or sometimes N150. From park to school bus stop was N250, it’s now N400, and from school Bus stop to Faculty is now N100.

“For the hike in school fees, it naturally means more adversity for those who cannot afford it. Many of my colleagues are threatening to drop their educational pursuit for now. Feeding rate has dropped, I now eat once or twice a day, ever since, to save cost. On transport, I trek part of my journeys to park, board school bus and also trek from school bus stop to Faculty.

“When I don’t have many lectures, I stay at home and read rather than making use of school library. No more social visits. I paid all my school fees at once last semester, the new fees as I learnt is now about 100 percent increase,” he said.

Rahmat Yusuf, a student of Kwara State Polytechnic, who spoke with BusinessDay in Ilorin, said: “The high cost of things have affected me seriously. Now I skip classes because of transport cost. In fact, the whole things is making one to appear unserious to lecturers.

“Before now, I used to spend N300 to Kwara State Polytechnic but the situation has gotten so bad that I now spend N1500 or sometimes 2000. Sometimes, I go on bike to beat hold up and of course, that costs extra money.”

Dorcas Emmanuel, from Kwara State University Malete (KWASU), said: “It has really made students feel like they aren’t doing enough because by the time you are supposed to do something in school and you remember you really don’t have enough money to transport yourself to and fro school, you become disturbed.”

President Tinubu recently signed the student loans bill into law, however, there appears little hope for average Nigerian students that they can access the loan.

Many students have lamented the conditions attached before accessing it, noting that the purpose for which it was set up to achieve may be defeated.