Inside Nexford University and Sterling Bank’s plan to help Nigerian students pay their tuition

Ejike Kanife

Nigeria’s educational system has continued to decline over the years. As of 2019, the country ranks 124th on the global education system and 25th in Africa behind countries like Zimbabwe, Ghana, Rwanda, Namibia, Botswana and the Number 1 ranked Seychelles.

As a result of this, 50% of Nigeria’s secondary school graduates fail to gain admission to local universities and other institutions of higher learning. This is mostly due to a lack of finance and their inability to scale through the admission process.

Even when they get a tertiary education, they are usually lacking in the skills of modern enterprise after graduation and as such are mostly unemployable.

A direct implication of this is that employers in Nigeria and indeed across emerging markets find themselves struggling to find qualified entry-level employees. They are, therefore, forced to invest in expensive and time-consuming training. This is despite the high unemployment rate in the country.

Despite massive unemployment, Nigerian employers struggle to find qualified entry-level staff

Another implication is Nigeria’s spiralling human capital development score which, according to the World Economic Forum’s index, is 44%. This is well below the Sub-Saharan African average of 55%. It’s obvious now more than ever before that something needs to be done urgently to salvage the country’s dwindling educational fortunes.

Remove quality education and you will produce a nation of half-educated men and women, unskilled and ignorant citizens, and a highly incapacitated economy.

The Sun

Nexford University, a digital tertiary institution based in Washington is partnering with Sterling Bank to help Nigerian students overcome both the challenge of financing their own education and of course obtaining qualitative education that would equip them for work in the modern world.

Called ‘Fund Your Future’, Nexford University Founder and CEO, Fadl Al Tarzi, told me the program is part of Nexford’s wider ‘Learn to Earn’ project for emerging markets. He said its purpose is to solve three major challenges facing both students and employers of labour. The first problem is to help employers find qualified entry-level talent.

The second challenge is to help students access much-needed finance for quality education. The final challenge is to give students the skills they need to actually get jobs after school, either as entry-level employees or professionals.

How the program works

The CEO told me in a chat that the whole process behind the program is designed to be simple and rapid. He said applications are submitted 100% online and an applicant could expect a decision/response almost in real-time.

Inside Nexford University and Sterling Bank's plan to help Nigerian students pay their tuition
Fadl Al Tarzi
Credit: Twitter/Finn01

He said while there will be no collateral requirements for loans, they will come with interest rates. A look at the website indicates a 5% interest rate and up to N800,000 in financing. Aside from the loan, the CEO also said a major advantage will be a discount on the tuition fees for loan applicants:

There are no collateral requirements. There is interest, yes, but at the same time there is a discount on the tuition fees. Plus the FX rate is locked so learners get to lock-in a rate when they get the loan, thus hedging their risk against further currency devaluation

Fadl Al Tarzi, Founder and CEO, Nexford University

According to the CEO, this will protect students against Naira foreign exchange fluctuations. These fluctuations, plus US dollar restrictions, are some major challenges Nigerians studying abroad face because they make budgeting for degree costs difficult.

Since Nexford has been an institution that prides itself in training established business leaders to make them better professionals, it comes as a surprise that it is suddenly lowering its scope to focus on high school graduates who have never been to an institution of higher learning.

Asked if this is the new strategy, Al Tarzi said it is as the online university is beginning to expand its focus towards building larger pipelines of qualified entry-level talents.

“We are targeting high school graduates, and offering them the opportunity to earn high quality yet affordable education without the risks and distractions of university strikes, or safety issues, etc. At the same time, by learning at Nexford they get the opportunity to begin gaining work experience even before graduating,” he said.

He also said Nexford is looking for learners who have the necessary prior education to succeed in its rigorous programs, and that includes English proficiency. He noted that the AI-powered institution is not necessarily looking for the top performers but to accept learners and help them become top performers in the future.

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