Letter to El-Rufai on KASU fees hike

The Kaduna State University (KASU) tuition fees hike has been bothering me for a while, but in my character, I didn’t offer any extensive commentary at first because I had no alternative solution to propose regarding the funding challenges the state quoted countlessly as the major reason for the hike.

Kaduna state 2021 budget presents the following facts and figures: KASU was expected to generate N765 million revenue in the 2020 revised budget and N823m for 2021; total expenditure for KASU in the 2021 budget is estimated at N9.6bn; personnel cost N4.6bn; overhead N65m and capital expenditure N4.4bn. This means the revenue from KASU contributes only about 9% of its total expenditure budget.

By the above, I knew there was no way I could justify such a huge budgetary disparity, as it is always hard to counter your policies and the facts and figures behind them Sir! However, Your Excellency, I would like to come from an angle of EQUITY. Education is a social service, one which ought to be delivered through socially equitable means by the government.

Sir, as you are aware, there are different calibres of students studying in KASU. There are students whose parents can afford to pay the upwardly fees, there are those whose parents can manage to pay and there are those whose parents can simply not pay. How then Sir, can raising the tuition fees uniformly without considering the peculiarities of each of these three categories be justified?

I understand sir, that there are relief provisions the government has put in place to cushion the effects of the tuition fees increase, especially for those who can “manage to pay” and those who “cannot pay at all”. I understand there’s the student loan scheme and the scholarship/bursary scheme all domiciled in Kaduna State Scholarship and Loans Board. However, I have some concerns on both schemes.

I understand from the interaction between some of the students and some officials of the state government that the motivation behind introducing the students’ loan scheme – through a legislation passed in 2018 establishing Kaduna State Scholarship and Loans Board and repealing the Kaduna State Scholarship Board Law of 1982 – is the United States’ student loan system. One could hear the SSG saying even Obama schooled on loans.

But Sir, it makes me wonder if we are even close to having that kind of a system in Kaduna State. By comparing some basic facts around the two loan schemes, I understood the following fundamental disparities; – While most American loans are given at an average interest rate of 5%, KDSG loans are given at 8% interest rate; the KDSG loan repayment period is 5 years, maximally. The American loans, however, are flexible and have different repayment modes. The “standard repayment” and “graduated repayment” offer a 10-year repayment period (with slight difference between the standard and the graduated); the “extended repayment” stretches payment from 10 years to 25-year; the “income-based repayment plans” also stretches repayment to 20-25 years; for KDSG Loans, one would need the commitment of guarantors while according to studentaid.org, “You don’t need a credit check or a cosigner to get most federal student loans” in the US; and many more fundamental differences including the fact that one “don’t have to begin repaying his/her federal student loans until after leaving college” unlike the KDSG loans.

I came to the conclusion from the above comparison that KDSG is not even close to offering a student loans scheme modeled on the United State’s Student Loan System.

On the scholarships, I learnt there will be a modification of the scheme where bursaries would be scrapped and need based scholarships would replace it where students would have to prove they are in financial need through tax and annual income and financial return assessments. I cannot comment on this because the scholarship board is yet to administer any scholarship using this particular need based system. Hence, it would be unfair to judge the scheme because there’s no antecedent to draw references from.

Your Excellency Sir, while we await the operationalization of the need based scholarship scheme, I categorically state that I and I believe many other people have legitimate reservations regarding the loans scheme. Even in the US where the scheme could be said to be relatively standard and more efficient, policy propositions and arguments against the student loans have been soaring up these past few years.

Sir, The United States’ federal loan is now $1.5trn, and about 43m adult Americans (roughly one-sixth of the U.S. population older than age 18) currently carry a federal student loan. The student loan has recently become a topic for serious policy debates as we have seen policymakers like Sen. Brian Schatz, Bernie Sanders, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Rep Bobby Scott, etc calling for tuition-free college education. We’ve also seen people like Rep. Ilhan Omar calling for the outright abolishment of student loans system. According to Forbes, 56% of Americans support plan to cancel student loan debt.

I believe sir, that we shouldn’t adopt a system that is crashing even in more efficient and effective countries like the US. While searching for possible alternatives, I came across one which speaks to my concern for EQUITY. It forms part of the CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS’s “Beyond Tuition” policy proposal. And a subheading titled “The affordability promise: No student should have to borrow for college costs” contains a proposition for accessing education through a “family income” approach.

I believe a scheme modeled on such a system would afford the state the opportunity to not only deliver education as a social service with equity, it will also assure increased access to education and better funding channels leveraging on the “Rich subsidizing the Poor” system.

The KDSG should also consider options of funding university education especially the infrastructure aspects through public private partnerships as Kaduna state is known for her proven prowess in the aspects of instituting programs and projects through the PPP route. Instituting an Education Trust Fund for the state is also another avenue that can be leveraged Sir where foreign and local investors alike could be contributing a percentage of their Cooperate Social Responsibility commitments into for the betterment of education in the state.

Please Sir, while we understand and appreciate immensely your exceptional leadership, we hope your team would kindly consider the above as stated in the Center for American Progress’s “Beyond Tuition” policy proposition for possible domestication(by fully considering the state’s peculiarities and inoculating them into the policy) and adoption.

Yours in the struggle for Making Kaduna Great Again,

Ringim writes via [email protected]