A survey conducted by the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) has found that those worst affected by the introduction of tuition fees nearly four years ago were working mothers in their middle to late thirties.
The survey was conducted some two years after the Freundel Stuart administration introduced the fees, and the results were announced today by Principal Professor Eudine Barriteau at a news conference to promote the flagship event of the university’s 70th anniversary celebrations.
Barriteau made reference to the Social Sciences programme, for example, where the average age of the students fell by ten years after Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced the policy, which was aimed at reducing the transfer to UWI by an estimated $42 million a year.
“Before the tuition fees were introduced, the average age of Social Sciences students, for example, was 37 years old. A year or two after that it was 27, so the average student was the older person who was working, who might even have had a child at university, and they decided to let the child go ahead and study,” the UWI principal said.
“Normally, this more mature student would be one who does not yet have a degree but may be seeking one to advance in their career or support their families better, and in most cases these are single women,” she stressed.
The survey also found that 57 per cent of Barbadians who continue to attend the university need financial help, UWI said.
Deputy Principal Professor Clive Landis explained that students were seeking support for day-to-day living expenses, tuition, transportation and books.
“Most people think it is school-leavers who have had the most difficulty, and most of the provisions to mitigate against the tuition fees have been made for them. But we have found it is the mid-career people whose numbers have dropped significantly,” Landis said.
However, the university officials said they were finding ways to assist those in need, including the establishment of a special fund to which campus staff contribute a percentage of their monthly salaries.
In addition, prominent Barbadians have been providing financial assistance to the needy students, Barriteau said.
“I get letters and visits from people who prefer not to give their names, along with prominent Barbadians who are willing to help students financially. In some cases, they might mention a school or people from a particular district. Yes, we are thankful that more Barbadians are reaching out and the corporate sector has continued to play its part,” she said.
The principal revealed that 72 per cent of undergraduate and 70 per cent of postgraduate students are from Barbados, and 67 per cent of the student population are female.
“We have seen no decline in the number of students from the Eastern Caribbean despite the challenges they face from Barbados’ high cost of living. However, we have been getting fewer students from Jamaica and Trinidad since they can now complete their Law degrees at home instead of having to come to Barbados as they did before,” the principal noted.
The 70th anniversary event will be a “red carpet, blue ribbon, black tie” gala featuring prominent entertainers and other celebrities from across the region. It will be a fundraiser for the UWI Students Scholarship Fund.