ASUU and ASUP Criticize President Tinubu’s Student Loan Scheme, Citing Concerns for Accessibility and Economic Realities

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) have voiced their opposition to the Student Loan Scheme introduced by President Bola Tinubu as a solution to the challenges facing the education sector in the country. The move has sparked debates and reactions from various stakeholders.

The former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, delivered a lecture where he emphasized that the establishment of a student loan scheme would be one of the most effective ways to address the issue of funding education in Nigeria. Subsequently, he sponsored a bill in the National Assembly to support indigent students in financing their education, which was subsequently signed into law by President Tinubu.

However, both ASUU and ASUP, as umbrella bodies of lecturers, have criticized the student loan scheme, expressing concerns that it may exclude indigent students. They argue that the scheme’s foundation is already set for failure, especially considering the high unemployment rate in Nigeria. According to them, when graduates are unable to secure employment, the repayment process would become impossible, leading to the depletion of the fund.

Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, the National President of ASUU, argued that

“It is a subtle hike in tuition fees in tertiary institutions. If a student says he cannot afford the fee, he would be referred to go and take the loan.

“We are not talking about how the children of the poor will be able to access it. We know that in Nigeria, things meant for the masses are always hijacked by the rich. After graduation, the children of the rich will get jobs and those of the poor, who may benefit from the scheme, will have no job from which to repay.

“The union will react at appropriately soon, but Nigerians know our stance on the scheme. It may not ultimately benefit the children of the poor and even if it does, it will just put a debt burden on them. Let the cost of governance be reduced and frivolous contracts and spending be done away with and we will have no funds for social services like education and others.”

Dr. Anderson Ezeibe, the National President of ASUP, echoed similar sentiments, stating that the student loan scheme fails to consider the economic realities of the country. He argued that with Nigeria’s high unemployment rate, the scheme would be unsustainable. Ezeibe criticized the introduction of tuition fees under the guise of a loan scheme, claiming it would hinder access to education for underprivileged children. He emphasized the need for policymakers to understand the ground realities and suggested convening a meeting with stakeholders and experts to explore alternative funding solutions for education.

Investigations have revealed that several tertiary institutions across the country have increased service charges, such as acceptance fees and hostel fees. For example, the University of Ibadan and the Federal University of Technology, Akure, have raised acceptance fees from N37,000 to N50,000. Similarly, the University of Maiduguri has increased fees for new students from N131,500 to N252,000. The University of Uyo has set the fee at N107,750. These fee hikes, coupled with the student loan scheme, have raised concerns about the accessibility and affordability of higher education.

The ASUU and ASUP’s opposition to the student loan scheme highlights the need for careful consideration of the scheme’s implementation and its alignment with the socioeconomic realities of Nigeria. As the debate continues, stakeholders are calling for comprehensive discussions and collaborative efforts to explore sustainable funding models for education in the country.

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