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New LASU fee Here to Stay

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Officials of the Lagos State University say the new fee seen as too high by the students will not be reduced

The  new  fees  introduced in Lagos State University, LASU, by the Lagos State government, the proprietor of the institution, had generated a lot of debate, with a lot of questions being asked about the propriety or otherwise of increasing student’s school fees by as much as 725 percent. It had been a long drawn battle between students and parents on the one hand, and the university and Lagos State government on the other. As the debates raged on, many waited to see how the matter would be resolved, in view of the fierce opposition it generated. But all hopes that the Lagos State government, which oversees the institution, might be forced to rescind its decision, has come to nothing, as the school has since commenced registration based on the new fees.

Newswatch investigations show that some students, who gained admission into the school, have heeded the school management’s order to pay up or lose their places in the university. Reacting to a question by the magazine on whether parents and students had complied with the school management’s advertisement as contained in a national newspaper, stating the modalities for the payment of fees, John Oladapo Obafunwa, a professor and vice chancellor of the university, said: “People have complied with it. Everything is fine and there’s no going back on the new fees.” He said that lectures ought to have commenced in the university but for the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities some weeks ago, and lately, the Nigeria Labour Congress. 

A student of the university, who is not affected by the policy, as old students are exempted from paying the new fees, said she is aware that newly admitted students had been coming to pay and register for their academic programmes. 

The school fees rose from between N25,000 and N62,500, to N193,750 and N348,750 depending on the course of study. The directive requesting the students to pay the new fees was contained in the National Mirror newspaper of December 21, 2011. Titled: “supplementary admission list for 2011/2012 academic session,” the advert, which contained names of students that had been offered admission into the university, states: “Following the post UTME Exercise conducted by the Lagos State University in September 2011… successful candidates are hereby informed to commence payment of tuition fees and register for the 2011/2012 academic session with immediate effect. Deadline for registration is Friday, December 30, 2011. Candidates who fail to pay at the expiration of the deadline will automatically forfeit the offer of provisional admission.”

Although some intakes were able to beat the deadline, there are those who were not able to pay the fee because their parents or guardians could not raise the required sum. This finding was confirmed by Olumoko Abayomi, a lecturer in the department of Marketing in the university. Abayomi, who is known to oppose the fee hike, told Newswatch that  the high cost of fees has prevented many people from taking up the admission as not everyone was able to pay up, a situation that has resulted in some departments having few or no registered students for the upcoming session. The problem, he said, was compounded by the fact that the authorities had discontinued the policy that enabled parents to pay instalmentally.

Abayomi said the new fees is “outrageous and uncalled for.” He regretted that the Lagos State government had gone ahead to implement the new fees policy, despite the outcry from many people, including Lateef Jakande, a former civilian governor of the state, who had asked it to rethink its decision. “Education is supposed to be a social service, and not just for the rich,” Abayomi said.

 In a recent interview, Sola Fosudo, who is the acting director of Press, Information and Communication department in LASU, said that the new policy stopping part payment of fees, is in the best interest of the university as it would help ensure transparency and halt the financial irregularities that were witnessed in the system in the past. For that reason, he said, “the new administration felt that it’s better to ask the students to pay once and for all.”  Fosudo noted that it’s “unfortunate that  it is during the time of the new vice chancellor(Obafunwa) that the new fee implementation came to be” but that “the fees were not increased by the VC but by the  University proprietor” based on  “the weight of the bills it picks up every month for the university.”

 But, perhaps, having reviewed the whole admission process, prompted, possibly, by the shortfall in registered students, as against the expected number, LASU authorities later wrote a letter to the Lagos State government to seek for an extension of  the  payment deadline.

In the letter, Obafunwa said “the extension of registration deadline would correct the shortfall in the required number of students registered to date which is just 10, 365 or 59 per cent of the 17,679 students expected to fulfill the registration requirement,”  and that, “as at January 5, about  9,217 or 70 per cent out of the 13,111 returning students, had paid their school fees and completed their registration process, while only 1,150  or 25 per cent of the 4,568 fresh students have registered for their various programmes.”

The request was granted.  A memo from the Lagos State government last week, directed the management to extend the period of payment for school fees from December 30 to January 13. It further gave parents the option of paying the fees in two installments of 70 and 30 percents respectively.  Fatai Olukoka, special adviser to the Lagos State Governor on education, said he had sent a memo to that effect, to the LASU management.

Obafunwa assumed office as LASU VC on November 1, but even before then, the issue of the new fees had polarised opinions within and outside the institution.  Aggrieved students of the university had voiced their displeasure over the policy which they said would bring untold hardship to parents. Not even the fact that they were exempted from paying the new fees placated them, as they insisted that some of them had younger ones who would need to be sponsored to the school too. The students took their protest to the state’s House of Assembly which promised to look into the matter. But nothing, from the students perspective, came out of that, as the registration and payment of the new fees, has shown.

At a recent forum, Fashola justified the hike in the school fees of the institution. He said that it was informed by the need to improve the state of facilities in the university as well as improve the quality of education there. He added that students of the institution had themselves previously protested against the poor state of infrastructure in their school, a move that led to the setting up of a committee to look into the issue. The white paper that emanated as a result, he said, is what is being implemented.

“We acted on the report of a Visitation Panel which the students themselves asked us to set up. School fee is only one of the many parts of that report. There are so many other recommendations which are there to raise the quality of education in that school,” he said.

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