Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, Professor Eudine Barriteau, has appealed to Government to raise the minimum income qualifying threshold for its Higher Education Financial Grant.
Barriteau told the campus’ matriculation ceremony that 57 percent of qualified and accepted applicants did not register for this academic year due to financial constraints.
The principal’s call came on the heels of an announcement by other campus officials earlier this week, that a significant number of prospective students have not taken up offers to pursue studies at UWI Cave Hill because they could not afford the costs.
There are further concerns that the drop in enrolment levels since the removal of the government subsidy could further affect the institution’s finances.
Barriteau told the ceremony that of the 4,803 new applications received as of September 1, 2,478 were offered places and 1,537 accepted.
“Of the 1,537 that accepted the offer to study at Cave Hill, a total of 1,071 students have registered, 135 graduate and 936 undergraduates,” she said.
Barriteau noted that while this represents a high registration rate, the new students account for only 43 per cent of the potential students who were accepted.
“Ladies and gentlemen 57 per cent of the qualified and accepted applicants did not make it to Cave Hill. When we telephoned and spoke to some of these potential students they emphasized their straitened financial circumstances,” she told the audience.
Given the inability of the students to meet the cost of their tertiary education, Barriteau wants the Freundel Stuart administration to raise the threshold of the Higher Education Financial Grant from $25,000 to $35,000 per year.
Under the grant programme, students in households with income up to $25,000 per year will qualify for full tuition, while those whose household income is between $25,001 to $45,000 qualify for partial tuition.
“The Cave Hill Campus is in a beautiful location and Barbados offers comparative social, political and economic stability. But the cost of living in Barbados is high and many persons with an annual household income of just over $25,000 will still be struggling to make ends meet.
“Thirty thousand dollars per year translates to a gross monthly income of $2,500 per month; this is before taxes, national insurance, rent, groceries and transportation, the basic survival needs,” Barriteau said.
President of the Guild of Students, Olvine Holas, also lamented the financial challenges being faced by students, as well as strained government budgets, “at a time when the region needs more investment in innovation and knowledge creation”.
“I acknowledge that there are clear challenges with negotiating this particular period in time, with such strain placed on the budgets and the global economic recession giving way to a slow and painful recovery. We in the Guild of Students are deeply concerned about the future that we will have.
“Certainly we must improve the number of students which we sent to the University. We, if we are serious about economic growth, must increase the university’s role,” Holas said.