Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler says Government has no immediate plans to roll back its new policy on tuition fee payments at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
And with some students and parents currently crying out over an unmet promise of bursaries, he is warning that the Government’s alternative plan for financing tertiary education would have been a lot worse on them.
“I am reasonably assured in my mind, based on what I saw and what was available to me, and the best advice that was available to me, that the alternative action would have been much more harsh, and worse than what we had to do in the end,” cautioned Sinckler.
The new tuition payment scheme, announced by Sinckler in his August 2013 budget, officially took effect this September, ending a free policy that was instituted by the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) founder and Father of Independence Errol Walton Barrow.
The Minister of Finance said while no one in the ruling DLP administration took pleasure in abolishing free tertiary education, “based on what we were seeing, and the fundamentals of the cost structure of tertiary education in Barbados, something had to be done.
“It could not be left untouched, and the alternative, in my view, would have been much worse,” he stressed.
Asked to further explain his position, Sinckler promised that he would have a lot more to say in the future.
However, looking at the issue of UWI costs and how they have escalated, and when matched against Government’s ability to pay, he warned that “if left in place, not just tuition fees, but economic costs which is the larger part of the [UWI student’s education] bill, may have come under scrutiny and come under need for change”.
“We didn’t want to go there. Somebody had to act, and act to some degree [with] expedition, so we looked at it and discussed it. Between the ministries, and the Government responsible, we made that choice.”
He argued that it was still too early to issue a failing grade.
“. . . The policy is new, it’s young. We are still working through it. This is the first year in which it is going to be implemented, so you have to give it time to see what happens,” he said in an interview with Barbados TODAY in which he was adamant that the new tuition payments must be allowed to work.
“If you implement a policy and before it gets a chance, you change it, well then you really didn’t want to have the policy in the first place. So we are going to look at it, and we are going to see,” he added.
Please also see Pages 10&11 in the 09/10/2014 edition – http://epaper.barbadostoday.bb.
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