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Weak currency makes international study more expensive for Nigerians

As the currency plummets, Nigerian students in the US are feeling the pinch. Source: Shutterstock

Nigerians studying in US universities are grappling with the effects of the falling value of the Nigerian currency, Naira.

Those studying at the University of Illinois found themselves unable to pay their tuition fees and visa costs after the Naira plummeted in 2016, The Daily Illini reported.

“They tell everybody it’s a fixed (tuition) rate. But really, if you’re international and your money’s in Naira, it’s not fixed,” said engineering senior Faramola Isiaka.

“If you’re paying X amount in dollars and suddenly the currency you’re paying in gets halved in value, you’re basically having to pay double the amount.”

Money doesn’t grow on trees for these students. Source: Shutterstock

His friend, Awele Uwagwu, found himself unable to settle the overdue balance in his student account. When there are payments pending, he couldn’t register for classes or maintain his visa, forcing him to fly back to Nigeria less than a week later.

“I was really passionate about every single thing that I did on campus and I loved every single moment of every single thing that I did,” Uwagwu said.

“I felt like after everything I have done, it just came down to funds.”

For international students, tuition can cost up to US$42,796, more than twice the rate of in-state tuition fees. And unlike home students, international students do not qualify for many of the financial aid available in the US.
Students like Isiaka are asking why their universities do not help exceptional international students more, especially those struggling with the rising cost of international tuition. It’s a “disservice”, he says, not only to the school but to the world, as many return to contribute to their home countries.

“I’ve never 100 percent understood why international tuition is astronomically higher than out-of-state and in-state,” Isiaka said.

For Uwagwu, the US$900 in merit-based aid he received freshman year was barely enough to scratch the surface of the nearly US$50,000 he needed to pay.

“I understand the way things work, and it may seem selfish, but I feel like there could be a better system to at least support international students with a merit scholarship,” Uwagwu said.

“I really wish things could be more merit-based and not necessarily about where you’re from, what country you’re born in, because at the end it’s all chance and I think everyone should get the best education they can get.”

In an email, Martin McFarlane, the director of International Student and Scholar Services wrote: “We have a 150-year legacy of putting an affordable and accessible higher-educational experience in the hands of those who choose to enroll here, and our international enrollment continues to grow because of this reputation.”

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