By Tony Manuaka
Abiola Metilelu, CEO of PressPayNg, said there should be a platform where college students “can creatively fund their tuition without dropping out of school.” He spoke with the Education report on how the new solution will allow students to start and finish their graduate studies at the right time. Excerpts:
What motivated you to offer this solution?
This is not about trying to solve a problem from a helicopter point of view. I also have a dropout history. I have had interactions with many students on campus who are having difficulty paying tuition fees. What I decided to do with my team is aggregate the skills to see how we can be part of the solution.
There is a fundamental problem with the education system. The sad reality is that government cannot fund education on its own. And so there has to be this collaboration with the private sector.
How is your operation different from that of fintech companies that provide quick loans without collateral?
We are currently in what is called the era of convergence, and it is the fusion of technologies. He talks about the integration of innovations. What we have decided to do is be an aggregator. We have also established partnerships with financial institutions, insurance companies, HMO service providers and players in the human capital sector.
We were able to bring all of these together and see how we can provide a holistic solution to the challenges of the education sector, especially at the senior level. It is not a FinTech so to speak.
In the tech industry, we are more of an Edutech, which is an educational technology solution. The focus is therefore on the education sector, and our targets are parents and students of higher education institutions in Nigeria. The keystone of our product is the savings for higher education tuition fees.
We want students to be intentional in funding their higher education. It must be a collective responsibility. They can access loans called Eduloan. We have EduSavings, which requires co-funding.
For example, if your tuition fee is 100,000 N, you can save 50% on your own contribution because we want to support the students who make the effort. This is the starting point, and you can access the remaining 50% as a low rate loan. We aggregate the two and credit the establishment directly.
Even students do not have access to the fund because we have zero tolerance for scams and embezzlement. We also have a level of interaction with higher education institutions.
There is also another offer, which concerns the maintenance of health. We have seen cases where students on campus sometimes fall ill and do not have the financial means to access basic primary health services. Some of them will need to be brought home for treatment. And on the way home, a lot of things happen. So what we did was have a conversation with the HMO service providers and say ‘can we come up with a product that fits this target market? And so, we have what’s called the health maintenance that students can subscribe to. We have approximately 4,000 partner hospitals across the country. It is about giving a certain form of proximity advantage to the students. Thus, if you subscribe to the HMO, you will be able to access basic primary health care services, including admission and food in the hospital for two days.
We also have education insurance. We also work in partnership with insurance companies where parents who cannot afford the tuition fees of their wards can purchase their education insurance. In the event that the parent becomes incapacitated due to an accident, serious illness or anything else that would render him unable to engage in productive activities, and he will not be able to find funds and pay the tuition fees, the insurance company will take care of paying their child’s tuition fees until he graduates. There will therefore be no reason to drop out of school.
We also have partnerships with other brands in the human capital sector, where we offer student vacation jobs so you can take a break. You don’t have to sit still at home. Through the app, there is a way to profile yourself for a vacation job. With a vacation job of one or two months, we can also aggregate what you can get out of it so that you can fund your next tuition. We are also interacting with organizations within the CSR space to see how we can partner with them to provide partial or full scholarship to students at higher education institutions in Nigeria. Our corporate goal is to smooth the dropout rate in higher education institutions in Nigeria and also to advance human capital.
Who among the students is qualified to benefit from it and how do you profile them?
We have several mechanisms to validate students and also assess their creditworthiness. This is done in collaboration with the participating financial institutions. They do their own due diligence as they also have their own internal mechanisms to assess students who wish to access Eduloans.
How are students supposed to repay?
It’s not just for students; parents can also access loans on behalf of their children. The preference for us is usually parents. What we are trying to do is also try to bridge the trust gap between parents and students and also between public donors and students. You would have had this experience of students coming to ask for help to pay the tuition fees. You may have requested an appropriate piece of identification to make sure the person is a student at a higher education institution. What we have done with PressPayNg is that we have apologized for the stress because on the app are only verified students of higher education institutions in the country.
Who regulates the activities of your organization? In other words, are you licensed by a regulatory authority like CBN, NDIC or NICOM?
The main partner in terms of financial institutions is FCMB. We are not a financial institution, but we have partnerships to ensure compliance with legal and regulatory procedures; and that good corporate governance is respected. When you act as an aggregator, when you have an agreement with the participating brands within an industry, you have this regulatory coverage of the participating brands.