If Minister of Education Ronald Jones had his way, all students at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus, who dropped out because they are now required to pay tuition fees, would be made to repay every cent Government invested in them in previous years.
Jones insisted last night that students who dropped out of the university over the issue were not being “logical”. The controversial minister made his position clear as he addressed a Lester Vaughan School’s Parent-Teacher Association meeting.
“Let’s say you are going to go into a third year in 2014/2015; let’s say you were in the Faculty of Social Sciences where Government would be paying $33,000 and change a year for you. So after two years, Government would have paid about $67,000 on your behalf, and looking to pay in your third year, $28,125 on your behalf, but saying to you pay $5,625. And you are saying to me ‘I have to drop out’?
“Because you have to make a contribution in your third year of $5,625 only, ‘I can’t do it so I have to drop out’?” asked Jones.
“If it were me and a student drops out because of $5,625, they should have to pay back every cent that [was] previously expended, because it is not logical to think like that,” Jones stated, adding that some politicians were guilty of giving people the impression that “everything is free”.
The Minister of Education said while he understood there were some people who would genuinely have challenges paying the fees, come September, there were yet loans students could access through the Students Revolving Loan Fund. In addition, he said, Government would be introducing “a whole series of bursaries” to help those who would not be able to pay the full amount. He said details would be given at a later date.
Jones said the Ministry of Education would phase in a project where “at least 50 per cent of that cost for those who are more vulnerable will be paid still by the state”.
Jones once again defended the Government’s decision to stop paying tuition fees for Cave Hill Campus students, though the Freundel Stuart administration will continue to pay the larger economic costs.
“If the previous system had continued unattended, in five to ten years we would have to be placing fixed numbers to go into university, rather than the now open door,” he said.
He pointed out that in the mid-1990s, a decision was taken to split the fees so Government and students would each pay a portion of the funding for their education. That, he said, soon changed and Government opted to pay the full tuition costs. Jones said the bill the administration paid on behalf of students, back in 1996, was about $6 million.
“Today, the bill for the students is $42 million. That is the student component; we are not looking at the other 80 per cent which up to three years ago was $132 million, plus whatever university charges,” he explained.