Outrage over UNILAG’s new tuition fees amid harsh economy

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Condemnation has trailed the new regime of tuition fees announced by the Management of the University of Lagos over the weekend.

The University had announced new tuition fees for undergraduate students in the institution, through information sent to the students’ portal on July 21.

The new tuition was announced amidst the prevailing harsh economic situation in Nigeria.

A statement dated July 20, 2023, by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities; UNILAG branch following a meeting with the top management staff confirmed the institution’s decision.

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 situation leaves students and their families grappling with the daunting reality of higher education costs.

The hikes in tuition by UNILAG followed similar hikes by some federal universities in the country in recent weeks since President Bola Tinubu assumed office on May 29, and introduced sweeping reforms in the economy which included the stop in petrol subsidy and floating of the Naira

Tinubu’s economic reforms have pushed up the prices of essential commodities, food, including petrol which now sells for more than N600 per liter depending on which part of the country it is sold.

Inflation and unemployment are also at an all-time high, according to latest data from Nigeria Bureau of Statistics.

Investigations revealed that when a similar tuition increase was announced at the Federal University of Technology Akure, some weeks ago, the Students Union Government of the institution protested the increase and it was brought back to N33k from the earlier amount of N84k.

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

Due to the prevailing harsh economy and high poverty among Nigerians, before the increase, many students were not even meeting up with the payment of the N16, 000 and N19, 000, until when it was exam period.

Some students who had the time and could find work have had to work, engaged in business, while others often indulged in undesirable jobs to raise their tuition fees.

As news of the fee hike was announced to students in the institution, students from all walks of life have responded with displeasure over what some referred to as being extreme.

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

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

The question now is what happens to such students?

There appears little hope for now, as many students say the new student loans policy just signed into law by President Tinubu does not look reachable and attainable due to constraints attached before the loan can be obtained.

Although some students had expected the increase in tuition fees to a certain level, in view of the high cost of living, they never thought it would be such on the high side.

They had thought the increase would be at a rate they can manage, but the new fees appear to be a huge hurdle which potentially can jeopardise their dreams of obtaining higher education.

The University authorities have also argued that the increase was necessary because of the prevailing uncertainty and economic challenges in which the prices of everything have risen astronomically. They said the tuition had to go up if they must provide infrastructures and deliver quality education.

Across social media, the Tinubu’s administration and the institution management have been heavily criticised for the decision.

Also, many Nigerians have expressed concern about the impact of the decision on the education and future aspirations of the students who can’t afford the new tuition fees in UNILAG and other tertiary institutions in Nigeria.