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High acceptance fees, sundry charges versus tuition-free status of varsities

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Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu PHOTO:Twitter

The Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act No. 11, 1993 as amended by Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions)(Amendment) Act No. 55 of 1993, indicates that public universities are tuition-free for prospective students. And to buttress this, the Federal Executive Council on May 9, 2018, declared payment of tuition in public universities illegal. The FEC reminded that laws establishing federal institutions do not allow these schools to charge their students.

Former Minister of State for Education, Anthony Anwuka, said by virtue of the universities Act, no federal university should charge tuition fees.

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However, these institutions have introduced different, multiple charges, which parents and newly admitted students are agonising over.

Over the years, federal and state universities have found ways to make students pay sundry charges in place of their original tuition-free status.

These fees vary and are given different names by the various institutions. Some of these charges include acceptance fee, development levy, identity card, registration, matriculation, medical, examination, library and sports fees, students handbook, ICT registration, university calendar, caution deposit and hall levy.

Others are departmental registration, student union dues, utility/sundry charges, certificate verification fee, faculty dues, security fee, science students fee, non-science students fee, medical referral fee, lab services, and tertiary institutions social health insurance programme (TISHIP) fee and others.

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Findings by The Guardian showed that many federal and state universities charge over N50, 000 from each prospective student as an acceptance fee before being allowed to register.

In some universities, money paid for acceptance fee is between N35, 000 and N40, 000. This is different from registration, which comes with different sub-headings.

Officials in some of the universities said the fees are to beef up revenue to meet obligations that could not be covered by allocations from Federal Government.

Investigations showed that the University of Benin (UNIBEN) is charging between N60, 000 and N80, 000 as acceptance fees, depending on the course of study.

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Imo State University charges N70, 000, while Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Umuahia, charges N50, 000. Federal University of Technology, Owerri charges N42, 000. University of Nigeria, Enugu, charges N25, 000.

While the University of Lagos charges N20, 000, University of Ibadan charges N35, 000 depending on faculty; Lagos State University (LASU) collects N20, 000 and Osun State University (UNIOSUN) takes N40, 000 for degree programmes.
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University of Abuja charges N42, 000, while the Federal University of Technology, Minna, charges N20, 000. Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria charges between N25, 500 and N44, 500. Usman dan Fodio University, Sokoto, charges N5, 000 for acceptance and screening fees. 

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Apart from the acceptance fee, fresh students admitted to the read sciences at the University of Calabar (UNICAL) pay N35, 250 during registration, non-science students pay N34, 250, while MBBS and nursing students pay N42, 750.

But Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi, and Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State do not collect acceptance fee from students. 

These discriminatory fees have become a source of worry to parents and indigent students, who are finding it difficult to pay, considering the fact that federal universities are considered to be tuition-free.

Already, the House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government to increase its funding of public universities to moderate the excessive drive for Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) by schools at the expense of popular access to public education.

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The lawmakers also mandated a committee on the tertiary institution to investigate high acceptance fees charged by the institutions.

They warned that if the situation is not checked, acceptance fees could become the school fee, and make indigent students lose their admission due to inability to pay fees.

In a motion by Julius Ihonvbere from Edo State, the lawmaker said: “The arbitrary high acceptance fees charged by some public universities on new students across the country has become a matter of great concern to many families.

“Amid rising frustrations over exorbitant fees, indigent families of new students that are forced to pay acceptance fees are bemoaning the unusual astronomical increase against the backdrop of the fact that federal universities are supposedly tuition-free. Acceptance fees are discriminatory, as they vary from one institution to the other, which showed that they have become mere internal revenue-generating mechanisms, impeding the smooth process of entry into universities.”

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The lawmaker added that while some of the institutions are charging minimal fees, others are charging astronomically whereas, others do not charge anything, thus raising questions as to whether the institutions were not established under the same law.

Stakeholders are no longer comfortable with the trend and have called on the Federal Government to wade into the matter like it did on post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation (UTME) fees.

But for the intervention of the Federal Government on post-UTME fees, which threatened to sanction any institution that charges above N2, 000 for the examination, the fee would have skyrocketed. Parents stated that the same intervention is expected in the area of acceptance fees in higher institutions.

A parent, Mrs. Patricia Uloma, said only “Federal Government’s intervention could save the situation. Just like the government did with post-UTME, it should make a pronouncement on the subject matter, announce a uniform fee and the institutions will abide by it.

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“Nigerians are not aware of any meaningful project these institutions have done with acceptance fees and sundry charges collected from new students. Yes, the monies go into the schools’ purse, what happens after that? Where do they invest the money? All these should be probed, if the money cannot be accounted for, it should be abolished completely,” Uloma said.

Human rights activist, Francis Eboh, said while acceptance fee is not out of place, as long as they are minimal and affordable, charging between N50, 000 and N80, 000 calls for concern.

A student, Jamiu Abubabar, described the payment of the acceptance fee as an abnormality and called on the government to stop it.

Brand Editor, Info online Media, Damilare Salami said acceptance fee is unnecessary and another means of extorting parents and students as the case may be.

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But staff at Olusegun Agagu University of Science and Technology (OAUSTECH) Karigidi Kayode, said universities are not adequately funded, hence the need for other sources of funding. 

He, however, noted that calls for cancellation of acceptance and sundry fees are not out of place, considering the burden on candidates and their sponsors.

“But can the sundry charges really be cancelled? Practically, there is a paucity of funds and for universities to meet up with their commitments; they have to generate funds internally. Cancellation of these fees can only be meaningful if the government can provide adequate funds for running these institutions.

An engineer, Remix Bello, said despite the various charges, education is still cheap in Nigeria.

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He said: “I won’t support the eradication of any fees. My children are abroad and I pay 50 times what we pay in Nigeria. I am for the appropriate pricing of education. University education can’t be for all, that is what destroyed the university system.”

A fitness trainer, Mr. Olayinka Ajibola Kazeem, observed that there are hundreds of students who paid varying amounts as acceptance fees but were later denied admission for not meeting laid-down criteria.

“It is also worthy of note that Nigerians are not aware of any meaningful project these institutions have carried out with the acceptance fee they have collected. Where do they invest the money? All these should be probed, if the money cannot be accounted for, then it should be abolished completely,” Kazeem said.

Acting Registrar and Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Institute of Training and Development (NITAD), Kayode Adejumo, said Federal Government should allow tertiary institutions to charge tuition, as most government institutions see acceptance and other sundry fees as avenues to make money.

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But former Vice-Chancellor of Bells University of Technology, Ota, Prof. Adebayo Adeyemi, did not support the abrogation of acceptance fee in tertiary institutions, as he considered it a component of the admission process. Rather, he advised that it be regulated with a stipulated percentage of total fees for the first year.

He said it is a commitment on the part of the candidate as evidence of the student’s willingness to take up the offer of admission.

Adeyemi said: “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 meant to be paid by the new student.

“However, if the candidate fails to take up the admission, he/she loses acceptance fee earlier paid,” he added.

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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 institutions, whether private or public, would have exhausted all funds earned from annual subventions, whether from government or proprietor, and fees, which form a substantial percentage of internally IGR.

“It is the gap between the end of the academic year when all fees would have been collected and spent, and commencement of a new session that most institutions are usually in a fix to pay salaries and keep things running. Therefore, the only option would be through a collection of acceptance fees as a stop-gap 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,” Adeyemi added.

An official of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the University of Uyo (UNIUYO), Essien Edwards, blamed the situation on poor funding, increased population and private sector involvement.

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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 was just a matter of us going to collect our admission letter or they even sent it to our homes. There was nothing like acceptance fees. Gradually, things started changing.”

While admitting that there is a budget for every university, Edwards lamented that the funds are hardly ever released in full.

“In most cases, what is released, except for salaries, is about 30 per cent, so, the institutions have to look for means of sustaining themselves, that is why the issue of acceptance fees and others came up.”

With the poor state of economy and hardship being faced by many, it is hoped that Federal and state governments will look into the vexed issue and review their funding strategies to give succour to the Nigerian masses.

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