Nigeria’s education crisis: Soaring tuition and impending rise of dropouts

 Nigeria’s education crisis: Soaring tuition and impending rise of dropouts

FUTA students protesting (Source: Premium Times)

By Kelechi Ogbu

Nigerian students in federal universities have lived a fairytale since the beginning of time. It is believed that if an average Nigerian wants to further their education, the best and most affordable choices are federal universities. However, since the turn of 2022, the reverse has been the case.

It has been an unimaginable turn of events as federal universities’ fees have been hiked outrageously, up to and over 100 percent.

Dealing with over 100 percent fee increases has been a torture for Nigerian students, especially with the present economic hardship, coupled with the high cost of living.

Before 2023, schools like the University of Nigeria hiked their fees. However, in July, 2024 the University of Lagos announced a 600% fee increment for it fees ranging from as low as 19,000 naira to as high as 190,000 naira, citing economic reasons. Some, however, blamed the signing of the Student Loan Act on June 12th, 2023, by President Tinubu. This development led to protests that yielded no tangible results other than students being tear-gassed at the protest ground.


A 2022 UNESCO report noted that about 20 million Nigerians were out of school, mainly due to poverty.

Another report by Student Loans Company (SLC) reveals a concerning trend. Between August 2022 and August 2023, 41,914 undergraduate students dropped out of their courses, an alarming 5% increase from the previous year and the highest recorded figure since 2018-19.


Reactions from the students of the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) campus on fee increments shows that there is indeed an impending danger.

Archibong Dunamis Udemeobong, a student in the department of Mass communication stated, “The school fees hike is obviously traumatic because some people are actually sponsoring themselves and they’re going through hard times now as a result of the hike.

Even with this hike, there is no improvement in anything. We still have small classrooms with large numbers of students, high cost of compulsory textbooks etc.

It’s really affecting lots of people as their parents and sponsors will also need money to take care of other things”.

Okanya Chiemerie from the department  Veterinary Medicine noted that, “The effect of the hikes in tuition fees in Nigeria Federal institution since the turn of 2021 is quite exorbitant and it’s actually a big challenge to students as some who cannot afford it dropout of school, some engage in illicit activities just to meet up, while others; of which I am a witness to carry over CBT courses because they could not complete the semester tuition fees after making half payments during the first semester and as if that was not enough instead of it to reduce as you progress to next section it’s increasing and this is actually a great challenge and problem for us.

“To be honest with you,those who have sponsors that are willing and ready to train them,will do that.

“But most of the students that pay school fees themselves and even the ones that do have parents but they are feeding from hand to mouth might be obliged to drop-out.

“Back then I usually thought federal universities were less expensive and that was one of the reasons I applied for UNN, but now the reverse is the case.”

Another student, Alung Glory Agabi of Mass communication department mentioned that, “With the high cost of living, most students will tend to drop-out and look for something more than school. Some might begin to steal to meet up with the high cost of schooling since they can’t meet up, girls will go into a high rate of prostitution to meet up with school demands which is very bad.”


The negative effects of the hike in school fees by the federal universities extend beyond students to parents, families, and even the society.

The effects range from psychological distress, to reduced academic focus, low performance, increased dropouts, shattered dreams, depression, and even suicides. For parents, it could lead to stress and high blood pressure which may also result in death

Parents and Students have been suffering since the hike in order to meet up with the fee payment and to solve other basic needs as an individual or family.

While some will  decide to drop-out because they can no longer cope, some have to engage in illicit businesses in order to meet up. Others decided to endure with hope that things will get better. However, such hope is getting slimmer each passing day as the country continues to express economic downturn.

ASUU in 2023 warned that if the government doesn’t not stop the fee increments, in the next few years, 50% of Students will leave as they can no longer cope with the increments.


The president of the federal republic of Nigeria on June 12th 2023, signed the Students Loan acts to provide fund for indigent students.

The Student Loan Act stipulates the establishment of the Nigeria Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) to provide loan to qualified Nigerians for tuition, fees, charges, and upkeep: The fund is designed to offer loans to eligible Nigerians, covering institutional charges and living expenses for their education in recognized higher education and vocational training institutions within Nigeria, with a sum of 60 billion being earmarked for disbursement.

However, the Act was widely criticised due to issues on governance and management, purpose of the loans, eligibility criteria, which is exclusive to only federal Universities students, method of application and repayment conditions.

Among those who criticised the Act is the president of Academic Union of University (ASUU) Prof Emmanuel Osodoke and the National Coordinator of Education Right Campaign (ERC), Hassan Taiwo Soweto.

In 2024, the law was amended to accommodate all Students of Nigeria Institutions, including those in vocational training and skill acquisition etc., and also to soften the criterias of  application.

As reported by many media outlets, Mr Andrew Adejo, the permanent secretary of the ministry of education after being summoned by a committee of the house of representative on the implementation of the students Loan Acts defended the  law. He said the increase to tuition fees is not connected to the Students Loan Acts.

Though he discloses that the increase is as a result of poor funding by the governments which is why the introduction of the loan Acts is to fill the gap.

He explained that because of the dissolution of the governing councils of the institutions, the ministry had been in charge of approving fees increment in the absence of the councils.

He stated that the ministry only approved the request by the University of Lagos  for fees increment but stopped approving others after President Bola Tinubu said the federal government-owned Institutions remained tuition-free

He also said that the charges added to the main fees set by the ministry of education is to cover the cost of accommodation, ICT, power, among others, and  it is the Governing Councils of the Universities that have the power to approve such charges for them.


On Friday, 24th of May, Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) began the disbursement process with a target of 1.2 million beneficiaries across the  federal institutions in the country.

NELFUND revealed that it has received 60,000 applications in the past week, with 30,000 being successful, and had also recorded 9.3 million website visits. It also stated that the portal will include State-owned schools by June 25.

To access the funds students are to provide information including their NIN, BVN and other necessary information.


Many students do not seem to understand the vision of the federal government regarding the loan, as the subject was met with mixed reactions.

Okanya Moses, a student at UNN, stated, “I’m not in support of this. If the government wants to help, it’s not about giving loans. It’s about first paying the lecturers well and then reducing the fees. Do things that help the students spend less. The solution to our woes is to reduce the cost of education. Lecturers have now formed the habit of producing textbooks and selling them to students so they can survive, thereby forcing students to buy them to pass their courses.”

Another student, Mboutidem, spoke on the issue, saying, “I think it’s a good development. Since there is no interest added or collected from it, it’s a wonderful development. Kudos to all those who brought the idea. It will definitely help a lot of students. Even here in our school, you see how some people struggle to pay their school fees. Parents will really have fewer things to worry about, that is if the student who takes the loan is responsible enough to inform their parents about it.”

According to John Nnamani, “The condition for the loan is not easily achievable. Also, paying it back might be a problem. This is a trash concept and is not feasible; the government is only trying to blindly copy other countries.”

Adeyo Stephen voiced his commendation for the government’s effort but does not approve of the initiative. He said, “I commend the Federal Government for that initiative. It’s a good one, but it will not help. This is a loan, and people must have a way to pay it back. I hope that it’s not hijacked in the end. I would not apply, however, because I don’t want any problems.”


Jim Ovia named chairman of Nigerian Education Loan Fund… see details about him

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