Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has warned of economic failure and the Barbados society “imploding” as a result of Government’s new policy on funding university education which has contributed to a near 30 per cent decline in student numbers at the Cave Hill Campus this academic year.
Just hours after an economist warned of other serious implications, Mottley cautioned that unless the Freundel Stuart administration reversed its decision, Barbados would have to paya high price.
Mottley told a Barbados Labour Party (BLP)-organised People’s Assembly in the Faculty of Law at the Cave Hill Campus last night that Government’s insistence on not
paying the tuition fees of Barbadian students was “not only ill-conceived, confused, extremely poorly communicated and executed, but effectively will represent the basis upon which, potentially, Barbados’ economy and society will implode in the next decade to two”.
The former minister of education in a previous BLP administration warned that without an educated population, Barbados would be in serious trouble.
“We have nothing else upon which to rely but our people and if . . . in the beginning it has already caused so much confusion and it has already led to so many people recoiling from wanting to come here [Cave Hill Campus] then I fear for the faith of this university, but more so the fate of our country as we move forward,” she said.
She described the introduction of tuition fee payment by students as an “ambush” although it was announced in August last year.
“Anyone who is familiar with the university system would know that it is impossible to introduce a policy that is as disruptive as this one is, particularly for existing students who are in the middle of their degree and who had a legitimate expectation upon registration in their first year that they would be pursuing a course of study that would be fully financed by the Government of Barbados as the Government has done from the very first day that the Cave Hill Campus operated down by the Port Authority, 51 years ago,” Mottley said.
There have been reports of cancellation of some courses at the Cave Hill Campus because of inadequate numbers for classes, with almost 2,500 fewer students registering for the 2014-2015 year.
Mottley said the premier institution of learning in Barbados had a lot to lose.
“The implications for this university, not just for Barbadian students but for all students, are clear. If there is not a critical mass to support the expenditure on a range of services, and a range of courses, this university will become less attractive and students from the region and from far afield will find Mona [Jamaica campus] and St Augustine [Trinidad campus] a more attractive prospect for a Caribbean education,” she cautioned.
“We run the risk as well – and I know this as a Member of Parliament – that there are some parents who, in the context of everything else that they are carrying today in terms of loss of jobs or reduced salary, increased cost, light bill, water bill, medical emergencies, will turn [away].”
“And these are not just working-class parents, these are middle-class parents as well who will say to their children, ‘I can’t manage it this year’,” Mottley said.
Yesterday afternoon, in an interview with Barbados TODAY, economist Ryan Straughn warned that if thousands of Barbadians were unable to afford university education with the full tuition burden on their shoulders, the undesirable effects could include wage moderation and a rise in unemployment.