Nigerian students at UPEI struggle to pay tuition in wake of banking changes

Some students from Nigeria studying at UPEI are struggling to pay their tuition after new banking rules were implemented in Nigeria, making international money transfers more cumbersome.

'I can certainly understand the anxiety it creates among our students'

UPEI student Caleb Ofoegbu hopes to graduate in May, if his family can transfer the tuition he needs from Nigeria. (Nancy Russell/CBC)
Some students from Nigeria studying at UPEI are struggling to pay their tuition after new banking rules in Nigeria are making international money transfers more cumbersome.

The new government in Nigeria is cracking down on corruption by demanding more paperwork for international money transfers, which is making it difficult for families to send money to their children studying in Canada.
I don't think I would have been graduating this semester.— Caleb  Ofoegbu

Caleb Ofoegbu, a fourth-year student from Nigeria studying economics and sociology, was unregistered when his family was unable to pay his tuition last semester.

His father was finally able to transfer money in late January, allowing Ofoegbu to start the semester one month late.

"If I hadn't gotten the money, the little money I had to pay the tuition, I think my graduation would have been in the balance and I don't think I would have been graduating this semester," said Ofoegbu.  

He said most of his core course work was done and he's taking three elective courses online, so he's been able to catch up after the late start.

Ofoegbu said he's hearing from other Nigerian students on the UPEI campus who are feeling stressed about the situation at home.

"The problem is most of them are afraid to speak out," Ofoegbu said. "They prefer to let the situation overwhelm them."

UPEI student Caleb Ofoegbu says the situation in Nigeria has caused stress for students here in Canada. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

A double whammy

Ofoegbu said his family is struggling in the wake of plummeting price of oil, which has sent the Nigerian currency into a downward spiral, making their money worth less in Canada.

His father is a retired engineer who now runs his own business dealing with aviation equipment and tractors.  

"His business comes from the economy, right?" Ofoegbu said. "People won't want to invest their money in an unstable economy.

"Recently he expanded his business so he collected loans from the bank ... And he used our house as collateral. So if he misses any payments, everything is gone."

Ofoegbu's brother has graduated from an MBA program on Vancouver Island. His younger sister would like to study at UPEI, but the family can't afford her tuition right now.
Zhaohui (Jerry) Wang, UPEI manager of enrollment, says changes to the banking rules in Nigeria mean more paperwork from the university.

Anxiety among students

UPEI is doing what it can to accommodate the changing situation in Nigeria.

With more than 100 students from the African country, it's the third largest group of international students on campus after the U.S. and China. 

Zhaohui Wang, manager of enrolment at UPEI, said the Nigerian government's new policies on transferring funds internationally are "more cumbersome and difficult," creating more red tape for students and their families.

"There are extra steps for them to go through, additional documents for the parents to obtain from us, to provide to the banks," Wang said.

"It has been a learning curve but we are trying our best to accommodate.

"Personally I have not heard from students who have to leave because we have policies in place that will accommodate the student's late payments, but I can certainly understand the anxiety it creates among our students."

Wang said he doesn't expect the banking changes will have an impact on the number of students from Nigeria attending UPEI.

"I think it will just require the university and the students to take more time and it will probably create more work for us."

Ofoegbu hopes "things change for good" but he admits the new Nigerian government is still in its first term, and it's likely the crackdown on international banking transfers will continue. 

After he graduates, Ofoegbu hopes to find a job in Canada and become a permanent resident. He also wants to pursue a post-graduate degree — but said that will have to wait until he can afford the tuition.
UPEI student Caleb Ofoegbu says the declining price of oil has devalued the Nigerian currency, the naira, in relation to the Canadian and American dollar. (Nancy Russell/CBC)


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