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National Assembly passes bill overhauling student loans programme

President Tinubu's Proposed Amendments Aim to Expand Access and Equity in Higher Education Financing

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In a significant legislative move, the Nigerian National Assembly approved the Student Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill, 2024, following comprehensive deliberations by both the Senate and the House of Representatives on the recommendations of the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFund.

The bill’s passage was spurred by President Bola Tinubu’s call, conveyed via a letter to the Senate, to repeal the existing legislation and enact a revised bill. This call came shortly after the announcement of a temporary suspension of the implementation of the student loan scheme, designed to provide interest-free loans to tertiary education students, pending legislative amendments.

Notably, the original Student Loan Bill, signed into law by President Tinubu in June 2023, aimed to facilitate Nigerian students’ access to interest-free loans for educational pursuits. However, the recent developments prompted a reevaluation of the legislation, leading to the drafting and subsequent passage of the Student Loans Access to Higher Education Bill 2024.

The amendments proposed by President Tinubu, as outlined in an explanatory memorandum, address several key aspects of the student loan scheme. These include the removal of family income thresholds and guarantor requirements, thereby streamlining the application process and enhancing accessibility for students. Additionally, the amendments prioritize equity by mandating a minimum national spread of approved loans each year.

Regarding loan repayment, the bill stipulates that repayment shall commence upon the beneficiary’s employment, with a deferred enforcement period of two years following the completion of the National Youth Service Corps program. Furthermore, provisions for loan forgiveness in cases of death or unforeseen circumstances underscore the bill’s commitment to compassionate and equitable financing mechanisms.

The passage of this bill reflects a concerted effort by the Nigerian government to overhaul the student loans program, aiming to foster greater inclusivity and opportunity in higher education financing.

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