The Federal Government has extended the student loan scheme to state tertiary institutions across the country.

The Managing Director of the Nigerian Education Loan Fund, Dr Akintunde Sawyerr, who disclosed this in Abuja, on Thursday, explained that the students in the state institutions could apply for the loan facility when the second phase of the scheme commences on June 25.

Data from regulatory agencies’ websites indicate no fewer than 336 state tertiary institutions  students in the country comprising universities, colleges of education and technical colleges will benefit from the scheme.

Figures obtained from the National Universities Commission website indicate that there are 63 state universities.

The National Board for Technical Education on its website listed 54 state polytechnics, 57 state monothenics and 111 state technical colleges.

The National Commission for Colleges of Education’s website shows that there are 51 state colleges of education in the country.

Also, no fewer than 60,000 federal instiutions students have registered on the loan application portal so far.

NELFUND opened its application portal in the first phase of the registration exercise which started on May 24.

The first phase accepted applications from federal tertiary institutions.

About 1.2m students in 226 federal universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, and technical colleges were expected to benefit from the first phase.

Data obtained from the NUC and other agencies indicated that the nation has 226 federal tertiary institutions comprising 62 universities, 41 polytechnics, 96 monotechnics and 27 colleges of education.

June 25

Giving the latest update on the loan scheme at a press conference on Thursday, Sawyerr disclosed that the Fund would start receiving applications from state universities on June 25.

He requested all state institutions to submit their students’ data immediately in order to facilitate a smooth and seamless application process.

He added that the component for skill acquisition loans would be launched in six months.

The NELFUND boss said, “Beyond financial assistance, NELFUND recognises the profound importance of equipping our youth with practical, market-relevant skills.

“Six months from today, we will launch a comprehensive skills acquisition programme, providing training in various vocational and technical fields.

“This programme is designed to prepare students to meet the demands of the modern job market, fostering entrepreneurship and innovation among our young people.”

Sawyerr said over 60,000 applications had been received by the agency since registration for the first phase began last Friday.

He said registrations did not necessarily translate to completed student applications, adding that only 30,000 had successfully applied.

”Sixty thousand are those who have registered on the platform. About 30,000 have successfully applied for the loan but that does not mean the 30,000 have been approved. Up until this point, nobody has been given the loan. Now is the time for evaluation.

“The overwhelming response serves as a testament to the critical need for financial assistance among our student population, and we remain committed to addressing this urgent demand,” the NELFUND executive secretary assured.

He revealed that over 90 per cent of federal tertiary institutions had submitted their students’ data to NELFUND, adding that only two federal universities and five federal polytechnics have yet to do so.

“We urge the remaining two federal universities and five federal polytechnics to expedite the process to ensure that all eligible students can access our financial support,” he said.

President Bola Tinubu signed the Access to Higher Education Act, 2023,  into law on  June 12, 2023, to enable indigent students to access interest-free loans for their educational pursuits in any Nigerian tertiary institution.

Student loan

The executive bill titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to repeal the Students Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act, 2023 and Enact the Student Loans (Access to Higher Education) Bill, 2004 to Establish the Nigerian Education Loan Fund as a body corporate to receive, manage and invest funds to provide loans to Nigerians for higher education, vocational training and skills acquisition and related matters,’  was signed in the presence of the leadership of the National Assembly, ministers and major stakeholders of education.

The Act empowers the Nigeria Education Loan Fund to provide loans to qualified Nigerian students for tuition, fees, charges and upkeep during their studies in approved public tertiary institutions and vocational and skills acquisition establishments in the country.

The new law which repealed the Student Loan Act, 2023, removed the family income threshold so students can apply for loans and accept responsibility for repayment, according to the Fund’s guidelines.

After signing the bill, Tinubu said no Nigerian, regardless of background, would be excluded from obtaining quality education.

“This is to ensure that no one, no matter how poor their background is, is excluded from quality education and opportunity to build their future,” said the President at the State House, Abuja.

Although the government initially announced that the scheme would be launched in September, it suffered several delays leading to an indefinite postponement.

The Presidency had linked the delay to Tinubu’s directive to expand the scheme to include loans for vocational skills.

Last Thursday, the Nigerian Education Loan Fund announced May 24 as the official date for the opening of the portal for loan applications.

Although the government initially announced that the scheme would be launched in September, it suffered several delays leading to an indefinite postponement.

After receiving a briefing from the NELFUND team led by the Minister of State for Education, Dr Yusuf Sununu, on January 22, the President directed the Fund to extend interest-free loans to Nigerian students interested in skill-development programmes.

Tinubu based his decision on the need for the scheme to accommodate those who may not want to pursue a university education, noting that skill acquisition is as essential as obtaining undergraduate and graduate academic qualifications.

Addressing journalists ahead of the opening of the portal last week, Sawyerr said about 1.2 million in federal institutions would participate in the first phase of the scheme.

“There are approximately 1.2 m students in federal tertiary institutions owned by the government.

“Today, by inference, 1.2m students maximum at the federal level (will benefit), but there might be an opportunity to increase the capacity in terms of more institutions, and when we begin to bring in state-owned institutions, then the numbers can go up,’’ he pointed out.

One of the key features of the programme, Sawyerr stressed, is the absence of physical contact between the loan applicant and NELFUND.

According to him, the portal provides a user-friendly interface for students to submit their loan applications conveniently.

He explained that only students whose institutions had uploaded their data on the Fund’s dashboard would be eligible to apply.

He called on students in federal tertiary institutions to visit the website, and apply.

He said the application requirements include the admission letter from the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, National Identity Number, and Bank Verification Number as well as completed application forms from its website.

“The loan application process has been streamlined to ensure easy access for all eligible students in federal tertiary institutions. Applicants can access online support to assist with any questions or concerns during the application process.

“We believe that education is a vital investment for the future. We envisage that the student loan initiative of Mr. President is a testament to this commitment,” he said.