The Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is continuing to reel from Government’s decision to have Barbadians cover their tuition fees from 2014.
Having seen its enrolment plummet following the imposition of the fees, the university is being hit from a fresh angle this year that could deal a further blow to its financing.
Top UWI officials revealed this morning that a large percentage of prospective students who were accepted for the new school year were turning down the offer of places.
In one faculty, as many as 500 prospective students have failed to register.
Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences Dr Justin Robinson told a press conference on campus this morning that the “significant disconnect” between the number of persons who were accepted and those actually registering to pursue studies was due to the inability of the prospective students to afford the tuition fees.
“When we compare the number of persons that applied and we sent them offers, relative to those who have actually accepted their offers, we are seeing that there is a disconnect, which we suspect is due to financing,” Dr Robinson said.
He urged people not to walk away from their dream of higher education simply because of a lack of finance. He also told reporters that in the Social Sciences Faculty alone, only about half of the 1,000 applicants who were accepted for the new term have registered.
Dr Robinson said there were a number of financing options available of which Barbadian students failed to take advantage.
He explained that there was the UWI financial aid programme, in addition to Government’s higher education grant that those with financial difficulties should factor into the equation.
He also said that persons could qualify for full scholarships under the grant scheme if they lived in households with incomes of $25,000 or less.
“But let’s say you have more than $25,000 in the household income and there is more than one person at UWI, then they can get the full scholarship,” the Faculty of Social Sciences Dean explained.
He told reporters that the introduction of tuition fees in 2014 had affected persons pursuing post-graduate studies and therefore, the provision of the various funding programmes were targeting that category.
“On the campus itself, we have a number of scholarships, awards and grants . . . these were typically always in existence . . . they are based on how well you are doing.
“What is new and what we find are being underutilized by a number of prospective students is really a number of needs-based financing mechanisms, the main one being the Cave Hill Financial Aid Programme. These are full scholarships and half scholarships, which are really needs-tested,” Dr Robinson pointed out.
He revealed that there was also a tuition fee payment plan, which allowed students to spread their payments over a longer period rather than having to pay a lump sum upfront.
“We want to encourage as many prospective students as possible to apply and make use of these funding sources, because we are seeing that these were underutilized in previous years, and already on trend for this academic year.”
The UWI official said the university had discovered that “the vast majority” of students who dropped out after the fees were introduced were mature students, with the younger ones staying on.
Dr Robinson stressed that the UWI wanted to work with those who were dropping out to explore ways to fund their education.
In addition, co-chair of the Campus’ Financial Aid programme Dr Donley Carrington called on continuing and prospective students experiencing financial problems to meet with the administrators and discuss their issues, so arrangements could be made to help them pursue their dreams.