Despite Scarcity Of Dollars, Nigerian Student Enrollment In U.S. Universities Hits Record High

Despite Scarcity Of Dollars, Nigerian Student Enrollment In U.S. Universities Hits Record High

The Institute of International Education’s recent report revealed a surprising surge in Nigerian students studying in the United States amid a scarcity of dollars and increased tuition fees.

The number of Nigerian students in US colleges and universities climbed to a 23-year high, reaching 17,640 in the 2022/23 academic year, marking a 22.2 per cent increase from the previous year.

This enrollment growth outpaced the previous year’s 12.3 per cent rise, positioning Nigeria as the only African country among the top 10 countries with the highest number of students in America.

The report noted that despite the challenges of costly foreign exchange rates, uncertainties linked to past presidential elections, and strikes by university staff, Nigerian parents leaned towards international education options for their children.

Speaking to BusinessDay, Uchenna Uzo, a Lagos Business School professor, attributed the surge to political uncertainty and the digitization of education, making online studying more accessible and comfortable for students.

Nigeria’s tertiary education faces multiple challenges, including access, quality, funding, strikes by lecturers, and academic calendar instability.

The lure of better opportunities in the US and the pursuit of postgraduate degrees for job prospects were among the driving factors for Nigerian students seeking education abroad, according to Ayodele Akinwunmi of FSDH Merchant Bank.

However, Nigeria’s prolonged dollar scarcity, exacerbated by global conflicts like the Russia-Ukraine war, led to severe currency devaluation, significantly impacting the cost of education abroad.

The hike in tuition fees, which range from $25,000 to $55,000 per year on average, translated to an exorbitant cost in naira when calculated at the official market rate.

This financial strain, contrasted with the relatively lower tuition fees in Nigerian universities, further underscores the growing preference for foreign education despite its implications for the local economy.

Johnson Chukwu of Cowry Asset Management highlighted the adverse effects of this trend, such as capital outflow and a strain on foreign reserves.

Beyond the US, the United Kingdom and Canada also witnessed notable increases in Nigerian students obtaining study visas, reflecting a broader trend of seeking international education opportunities.

While this surge in international student mobility enriches global higher education and offers unique perspectives, experts warn of its potential impact on Nigeria’s workforce and economy.

Reports suggest that many highly skilled Nigerian workers plan to migrate abroad due to economic challenges, potentially impacting sectors like finance, IT, and professional services.

Despite the allure of international education, this exodus of skilled workers might present challenges for Nigeria’s economic growth and various sectors.

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