Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, Professor Eudine Barriteau is warning of “a looming crisis”, which she says will affect the ability of the average Barbadian to afford a tertiary education.
Speaking during a ceremony to announce a US$2,500 scholarship for first year student Akilah Jordan-Watson who won the 2016 Optimist International Essay Competition, Barriteau further cautioned that with the economic situation as it is, students are finding it increasing difficult to pay for higher learning.
“As you know the challenge of funding higher education is being quite acute, and in essence a crisis may be looming,” the UWI principal said.
And while suggesting that Barbadians as a whole had taken higher education for granted, she warned that the cost was spiralling out of the reach of the average student following Government’s decision, back in 2014, to stop paying the tuition fees for Barbadians attending the UWI.
“I am really worried that if the trend continues, only an elite will be able to afford higher education,” the principal said.
Using herself as an example, Barriteau said she would not have been able to attend university had she not been afforded an education by the state.
“I wouldn’t have been able to have done a degree if at the time we had to pay, because my mother would not have been able to afford it,” she said, adding that tertiary education had her what she is today.
“When I think about all the opportunities that I have had personally I know that it is my first degree at the Cave Hill campus that enabled me to do that,” the Grenada-born principal said.
However, with the Barbados economy “tight” at the moment, she said it was really now left to parents to make the sacrifices on behalf of their children.
“Of course the Cave Hill campus is doing its own bit to help students in need of financial assistance, but we can only do so much given our financial circumstances,” Barriteau said, while making a passing reference to the $200 million which is said to be owed to the university by Government in terms of outstanding contributions.
“I don’t dwell on our debt, but it is significant,” she added.
While revealing that she had already written to Government seeking to get it to increase its $2,500 student grant by one thousand dollars, the UWI principal pleaded with non-governmental organizations and the private
sector as a whole to assist in subsidizing tuition fees for students.
“I want to appeal to all our leaders, parliamentary, private sector, NGOs, to continue to invest in the young people of Barbados and the region to ensure that they have the opportunities, so they can take themselves further in the process.
“We need help so that we can offer our students more grants, scholarships and other activities to facilitate their development,” she said.
The UWI principal also revealed plans to assist Dominican students who have been directly impacted by Hurricane Maria.
“As far as we are concerned right now they belong to us. They are here. Not only have we made arrangements to provide them with support with their tuition, but while they are here we will take care of them.
“We are already thinking of what we can do for them because they won’t be able to go home for Christmas. This is what we do in reaching out to our students,” she added.