Debate intensifies over acceptance fees in varsities
Rights group recently called out the Federal Government to abolish acceptance fees into all tertiary institutions in the country, saying the practice amounts to an extortion of the students. UJUNWA ATUEYI sought the views of stakeholders on the issue.
The national policy on education recognises education as an expensive social service that requires adequate financial provision for the successful implementation of programmes in the sector.
Unfortunately, this is not so in Nigeria, as the sector is still poorly funded to effectively carry out its mandate as expected. The Federal Government is still struggling to fund the system. This perhaps, forced a lot of institutions to become more creative in the manner they fashion out adaptable funding strategies needed for their smooth operation.
A lot of them adopted an array of cost sharing measures such as acceptance fee, development levy, identity card, registration, matriculation, medical, examination, library and sports fees, students handbook, ICT registration, university calendar, caution deposit and hostel maintenance.
Others are departmental registration, students union dues, prospectus, utility/sundry charges, certificate verification fee, faculty dues, hall levy, security fee, science students fee, non-science students fee, medical referral fee, lab services, endowment fund, tertiary institutions social health insurance programme (TISHIP) fee, among others.
These fees vary and could be given different names depending on what the institution prefers. Observers described it as smartest way of extorting students and their parents. Recently, a rights group, One Love Foundation, based in Edo State had called on the Federal Government to scrap the payment of acceptance fee in higher institutions.
The group lamented the fate of the poor masses whose academic pursuits have been truncated due to their inability to pay the thousands of money being demanded as acceptance fee before they could be admitted into the universities.
They revealed that many state-owned tertiary institutions charge as much as N40, 000 to N60, 000 per student while some federal institutions even charge more.
The Guardian’s check across the institutions on acceptance fee shows that the University of Ibadan (UI) charges N35, 000, Lagos State University (LASU) charges N20, 000; University of Lagos (UNILAG), 20,000; Osun State University (UNIOSUN), N40, 000 for a degree programme. Also, Yaba College of Technology (YabaTECH) charges between N15,000-N17,000; while Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED) charges N7,500 for fulltime NCE and N10,000 for part time.
Coordinator of the group, Mr. Patrick Osagie Eholor, said: “These fees pose additional hardship and obstacles to tertiary education aspiration of our well-meaning youths and parents whose enthusiastic votes brought the present administration to power.”
Acceptance fee is the initial fee payable by newly admitted students to their preferred institution. Most times, it is the payment of this fee and the provision of evidence of payment that will enable the applicant proceed to another stage of his/her registration process. However, the fee does not guarantee admission and it is non-refundable.
Peter Ibekwe (not real name) was offered admission for a PhD programme at UNILAG in 2014. He paid N50, 000 as acceptance fee. Afterwards, he made additional payment of N150, 000 as school fees, but due to unforeseen circumstances, he was unable to proceed for the programme. By chance or by circumstance, UNILAG briskly gained N200, 000 into its purse, as the fees are non-refundable.
This is just one scenario where Nigerian students make non-retraceable step that enriches the pocket of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
There are hundreds of Nigerian students who have at one point or the other paid varying amounts of money as acceptance fees and were later denied admission for not meeting up with the admission criteria.
And stakeholders are no longer comfortable with the trend. While some described acceptance fees, as illicit way of generating fund for the universities, others said it is improper to levy parents and force them to take up government’s responsibility.
Some parents who spoke with The Guardian on the issue, urged the Federal Government to wade into the matter like it did on the post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Fees (UTME) fees.
But for the intervention of the Federal Government on post-UTME fees, observers say the fee would have skyrocketed. This same intervention is expected in the area of acceptance fees in the higher institutions. Former Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu had warned that it would sanction any tertiary institution which charges more than N2, 000 for post-UTME.
The warning came after so many universities started exploiting students and their parents through the post-UTME exercise and fees. The minister then benchmarked the fees at N2000 per candidate.
A parent, Mrs. Loretta Igwe, said it is only the “Federal Government’s intervention that will properly address the issue. Just like government did with the post-UTME, if government truly cares about the wellbeing of the masses, it should make a formal pronouncement on the subject matter, announce a uniform fee and these universities, polytechnics and colleges of education will abide by it.
“It is also worthy of note that Nigerians are not aware of any meaningful project these institutions have carried out with acceptance fee. Yes it goes into the purse of the school, what happens after that? Where do they invest the money? All these should be probed, if the money cannot be accounted for, then it should be abolished completely,” she said.
But former vice chancellor of Bells University of Technology, Ota, Prof. Adebayo Adeyemi, did not support abrogation of acceptance fee in tertiary institutions, as he considered it as a component of the admission process. Rather, he advised that it be regulated with a stipulated percentage of the total fees for the first year.
He said it is a commitment on the part of the candidate as an evidence of the willingness to take up the offer of admission.
“Payment of acceptance fee has always been a component of admission exercise in any tertiary institution which is an expression of interest by the candidate offered admission. The convention is to treat the acceptance fee as part payment for the total fee to be paid by the candidate. However, if the candidate fails to take up the admission, he/she loses the acceptance fee earlier paid. The amount charged varies, especially between public and private institutions.
In public institutions, it used to be nominal, which, progressively has been increased and some times a certain percentage of the tuition or whichever fees are charged in public institutions. For private universities, a substantially higher amount could be charged compared to public institutions, which could be relative to normal tuition.”
On whether these universities are being fair to students with the charges, he said, “My take on the fairness is that the acceptance fee should be relative to the total fees to be paid by new students. A situation where the total fees to be paid in a public university for first year, hypothetically, is N100, 000, the acceptance fee should not be more than N20, 000, leaving a balance of eighty thousand naira to be paid on resumption. I will be more comfortable with a minimal and an optimal percentage of 10 and 20 per cent of total fees respectively.”
As a former university administrator, Adeyemi said universities, if properly funded should be able to survive without acceptance fee.
“My experience is painted in the following scenario: At the end of the academic year, most if not all the Nigerian institutions, whether private or public, would have exhausted all funds earned from annual subventions, whether from the government or the proprietor, and fees which form the substantial percentage of internally generated revenue (IGR).
“It is the gap between the end of the academic year when all fees would have been collected and spent, and the commencement of a new session that most institutions are usually in a fix to pay salaries and to keep the institution running. Therefore, the only option would be through collection of acceptance fees as a stopgap to ensure not only payment of salaries but also to meet the cost of essential services. This would be the pattern of running most of our institutions unless proper and adequate funding is ensured.”
The Coordinator, Lagos Zone, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Olusiji Sowande blamed the situation on poor funding, increased population and private sector involvement.
According to him, the introduction of private universities came along with a lot of new concepts. “But the public universities are more adversely affected because they are not properly funded, and so they have to look for alternative means of generating funds, and part of this concept is the issue of acceptance fee. I recall that some of us when we entered the university, it is just a matter of us going to collect our admission letter or they would even send it to you. There was nothing like acceptance fees.
“Gradually, things have started changing. For instance, JAMB was not set up to be generating money, but now, the body is generating money… the whole thing has now become a capitalist concept that people are looking for all means of generating fund in order to sustain the university system.
“The thing has also extended to having to pay for certificates, which is a private initiative or concept. I, in particular, for all my certificates, didn’t pay anything to collect them. But now, in virtually all the universities, either private or public, graduating students have to pay for collection of certificates. In some instances, they have to pay for collection of final results; all those things are capitalist concept and the basics for everything is the fact that our universities are not properly funded. If public universities are properly funded, they wont look for alternative means.”
Sowande, who affirmed that there is budget for every university, retorted, “Yes they have budget, but the release of the amount budgeted is something that is very worrisome. In most cases, what is released, except for salaries, for overhead, capital project in most cases about 30 per cent of it that is released, and so the universities have to look for means of sustaining themselves, and that is why this issue of having to collect acceptance fees and all kinds of fees started.
Also the issue of competition, arising from the increase in our population is also another aspect contributing to people having to pay by all means. It brought about a competition, because universities know that there are so many admission seekers, and if you don’t pay by accepting it at a cost, somebody else is also waiting and is even ready to pay even at a snap of the finger; this is making those who are disadvantaged financially not to be able to cope. It is something that should be looked into. And I think if universities are properly funded, this concept of paying acceptance fee will be a thing of the past.”
With the poor state of economy and hardship being faced by many, it is hoped that the federal and state governments would look into the vexed issue and review their funding strategies to these institutions to give succour to the struggling Nigerian masses.
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