The need­less con­tro­versy over univer­sity tu­ition in Ondo

The Punch - - SPORTS - niyi akin­naso niyi@com­

THere are two ma­jor sources of fund­ing for univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion world­wide. The first, and more recog­nised source, is sub­ven­tion. This is pro­vided by the pro­pri­etor, which may be the gov­ern­ment; an or­gan­i­sa­tion or as­so­ci­a­tion; an in­di­vid­ual; or a group of in­di­vid­u­als. In ad­di­tion to sub­ven­tion, the pro­pri­etor may also pro­vide fi­nan­cial aid in the form of schol­ar­ships, bur­saries, or loans.

The sec­ond ma­jor source of fund­ing is In­ter­nally Gen­er­ated Rev­enue, typ­i­cally de­rived from tu­ition and other fees; en­dow­ment; re­search fund­ing; do­na­tions by cor­po­ra­tions, alumni as­so­ci­a­tion, and oth­ers; and busi­ness ven­tures by the univer­sity, in­clud­ing con­sul­tan­cies. Of these sources of IGR, tu­ition and other fees pro­vide by far the most sig­nif­i­cant yield.

Over the last 25 years, uni­ver­si­ties all over the world have been in­creas­ing tu­ition and re­lated charges in re­sponse to de­clin­ing sub­ven­tions from their pro­pri­etors. This ap­plies to both pub­lic and pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties. In the United States, for ex­am­ple, tu­ition fees in­creased to the point that tu­ition rev­enue had out­stripped gov­ern­ment sub­ven­tion by 2012.

To­day, the av­er­age an­nual cost of tu­ition in Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties is about $35,000. This trans­lates to over N12m, ex­clud­ing board­ing and other fees. Of course, this fig­ure may be lower in some smaller state uni­ver­si­ties and much higher in elite uni­ver­si­ties. There is also a dif­fer­ence be­tween in-state and out-of-state tu­ition, de­pend­ing on the lo­ca­tion of the univer­sity rel­a­tive to the ap­pli­cant’s state of res­i­dence. In­ter­na­tional stu­dents nor­mally pay the high­est fees.

A sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion ob­tains in the United King­dom, where the then Labour Gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced tu­ition fees in Bri­tish uni­ver­si­ties in 1998 in or­der to meet short­falls in gov­ern­ment sub­ven­tion. From a mod­est fee of just £1,000 in 1998, univer­sity tu­ition in Britain has gone up steadily to a cap of £9,250 for the UK and the eu stu­dents in 2017-18 and up to £30,000 for in­ter­na­tional stu­dents. At least, 75 per cent of the UK uni­ver­si­ties charge the max­i­mum tu­ition al­low­able.

True, Nige­ria’s pe­cu­liar so­cial and eco­nomic con­di­tions must be taken into ac­count, it is nev­er­the­less nec­es­sary to view the re­cent hikes in univer­sity tu­ition across the coun­try in light of global prac­tices. There are many rea­sons why univer­sity tu­ition must be raised. The pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties through­out the coun­try are in a state of pro­longed ne­glect and dis­re­pair. The stan­dard of univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion has fallen ac­cord­ingly.

This was par­tic­u­larly em­pha­sised by the Nige­rian Uni­ver­si­ties Needs As­sess­ment in 2013, which high­lighted ma­jor gaps in ev­ery seg­ment of univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion, par­tic­u­larly in­fras­truc­ture, teach­ing and learn­ing fa­cil­i­ties, the num­ber and qual­ity of teach­ing staff, and man­age­ment prob­lems.

Sim­i­larly, the 63-page re­port on the Needs As­sess­ment of Nige­rian ed­u­ca­tion Sec­tor, pro­duced by the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion, high­lighted skills and com­pe­tency gaps that must be filled if the de­clin­ing Nige­rian ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor were to be re­vived.

Yet, the na­tion’s econ­omy has been in de­cline since 2014, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to meet even salary obli­ga­tions to work­ers. For ex­am­ple, Ondo State re­alised less than 60 per cent of its es­ti­mated bud­get in 2017. This has made it even more dif­fi­cult for an ad­min­is­tra­tion that in­her­ited a bur­den of ar­rears of univer­sity sub­ven­tions and salaries for up to seven months as well as a debt bur­den in ex­cess of N200 bil­lion. That’s why debt re­pay­ment (on prin­ci­pal alone) and statu­tory trans­fer gulp as much as N20bn an­nu­ally.

It is in­struc­tive to lis­ten again to Gover­nor Ro­timi Ak­eredolu in his 2018 bud­get speech to the Ondo State House of Assem­bly in De­cem­ber 2017 as he cat­a­logued his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s predica­ment: “On as­sump­tion of of­fice, Mr. Speaker, we met a wor­ri­some state of af­fairs, with the econ­omy of the state al­most co­matose. We were con­fronted with very se­ri­ous so­cial, eco­nomic and dif­fi­cult chal­lenges. We were faced with se­vere eco­nomic un­cer­tain­ties, with stunted eco­nomic growth, mas­sive youth un­em­ploy­ment and un­der­em­ploy­ment. Aside from these, sev­eral of the roads and ed­u­ca­tion in­fras­truc­ture were in very poor state, the in­dus­trial sec­tor was in a coma and above all, we met a highly de­mo­ti­vated work­force as a re­sult of non-pay­ment of salaries as and when due.”

It is against this back­ground and global prac­tices, as out­lined above, that tu­ition fees were raised in one of the state’s uni­ver­si­ties, namely, Adekunle Ajasin Univer­sity, Akungba-akoko. I was a Con­tract Pro­fes­sor at the AAUA for five years, where I es­tab­lished and di­rected the Teach­ing and Learn­ing Cen­tre. I left early in Au­gust 2017 at the end of my con­tract. I re­ceived my July 2017 salary only on Mon­day, April 16, 2018. It was my ex­pe­ri­ence at the univer­sity that led me to ar­gue re­peat­edly, even when the state was still buoy­ant, that the tu­ition of just N25,000 was ridicu­lous. Un­for­tu­nately, the tu­ition was kept low for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, even when other state-owned higher in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing Ru­fus Giwa Polytech­nic in Owo, were pay­ing much more.

I was on the foun­da­tion Gov­ern­ing Coun­cil of the Ondo State Univer­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy at Ok­i­tipupa over seven years ago, when un­der­grad­u­ate tu­ition was set at no less than N100,000 for any course. As the AAUA Pro-chan­cel­lor, Dr. Tunji Abay­omi, ar­gued last week, it makes no sense for a Sci­ence stu­dent at Ok­i­tipupa to pay that much, while an AAUA stu­dent pays a pal­try frac­tion for the same course and in a sis­ter state univer­sity.

Gover­nor Ak­eredolu is not alone in rais­ing univer­sity tu­ition fees. This is es­pe­cially nec­es­sary in the case of the AAUA for com­par­a­tive pur­poses. Within the past year alone, over 40 Nige­rian fed­eral, state, and pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties have raised their tu­ition fees in or­der to meet sub­ven­tion short­falls. Some, like Osun State Univer­sity, raised tu­ition by a mod­est in­crease of less than 50 per cent, while oth­ers, like the Uni­ver­si­ties of Benin and La­gos, did so by as much as 400 per cent.

There is, how­ever, value in the ar­gu­ment that the in­crease should have been grad­u­ated over a few years in or­der for par­ents and stu­dents alike to pre­pare much bet­ter for it. The par­ents are as much a vic­tim of the eco­nomic re­ces­sion as the state is. I ad­dressed these is­sues in two pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cles in this col­umn, namely, “In­creas­ing tu­ition fees in the na­tion’s uni­ver­si­ties” (The PUNCH, May 5, 2015) and “Let’s be re­al­is­tic about univer­sity tu­ition” (The PUNCH, May 26, 2015). In the con­clud­ing sec­tion of the May 5 ar­ti­cle, I had this to say: “The ar­gu­ment re­ally is no longer about whether univer­sity tu­ition and other fees should be in­creased in Nige­rian uni­ver­si­ties. Rather, the ar­gu­ment is about when and how to go about it”.

I can un­der­stand the stu­dents’ ar­gu­ment if they were ask­ing for grad­u­ated in­creases in tu­ition fees over the next few years. How­ever, to ask for no in­crease at all should be out of the ques­tion. Ak­eredolu has re­sponded well, by re­duc­ing the in­crease by as much as 50 per cent. He should seek to pre­serve the in­tegrity of his gov­ern­ment and that of the new Gov­ern­ing Coun­cil of AAUA, by not wa­ver­ing fur­ther on the new fees.

On their part, the AAUA stu­dents need fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion on how to ne­go­ti­ate with the univer­sity au­thor­i­ties and the gov­ern­ment. Good a thing, they did not start de­stroy­ing univer­sity prop­erty as they did in the past. No pur­pose is served by de­struc­tive or dis­rup­tive protests. They should re­alise that they now have a great weapon in so­cial me­dia, which they can em­ploy in dis­sem­i­nat­ing their views and de­mands.

Fi­nally, the Ak­eredolu ad­min­is­tra­tion and the new AAUA Gov­ern­ing Coun­cil de­serve com­men­da­tion for fac­ing cur­rent re­al­i­ties squarely, by tak­ing the bold step of in­creas­ing the univer­sity’s tu­ition fees. It is a po­lit­i­cal risk worth tak­ing.

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