The Ministry of Education has said the federal government can no longer foot the bill for universities.
The Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Andrew David Adejo, said this at a press briefing Wednesday in Abuja while clarifying the Students Loan Bill signed into law by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Monday.
“Introduction of tuition fee is not arising from the act; No! Whether we like it or not, the government can no longer foot the bill for universities. That is why we are doing Private Public Partnership (PPP),” he said.
Responding to a question on if the act would introduce tuition fees in public institutions, Adejo said, “The universities already have autonomy, the autonomy they are yet to have is financial autonomy. It is when they get it that they can answer that question and the government is working towards that.”
The Permanent Secretary said the federal government was working out modalities to begin the disbursement of student loans in September because the president had directed that the first recipients of the loan must be available for the 2023/2024 academic session.
He said an inter-ministerial committee would be inaugurated on Tuesday to fine-tune the process for students to get the loan within six weeks.
He explained that the Act addressed the purpose of making sure that persons that get the loan pay their tuition, saying, “Without meaning to say what the committee set up would do, we don’t want to make something that only public school students would benefit from.
“For now, private schools are paying tuition so you have to give somebody who is going to private school an opportunity to get and pay tuition.
“What you have been seeing is the bill that was presented and went through final reading at the House of Representatives and before Mr President signs a bill, he looks at it and sends it to relevant ministries and then decides if it is okay and if there are modifications that are necessary.
“Let us wait to see the Act and you will get the Act when it is transmitted to the Ministry of Justice to produce into a gazette,” he said.
Adejo further explained that there were other fees apart from tuition that could make indigent students need a loan.
“You can’t give someone a loan and say pay tuition without sustaining his school. No. You have to get accommodation, even if tuition fee in public universities is free, you still pay for your accommodation and the federal government would not give you loan that will not make sure you get in school, stay in school and graduate,” he added.
While noting that such scheme had failed in the past, he said the government wanted to learn from the past, adding, “We want the current act to learn from the mistake of the past where there were more defaulters than people that paid. In the past, it is like it is a government money come and take and go, free money but that is not going to be the case with this.”
He however, assured that the process would be depoliticised and that jobs would be created even though it cannot be created 100 per cent, adding that universities and polytechnics were being redirected to focus on innovation and produce job creators.