A month to the day after Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced an end to tuition fees for Barbadian students attending the University of the West Indies (UWI), there is confusion over who will pay for the upcoming semester.
Students showing up to enrol at the university for the semester, which begins on August 20, are being told they must pay tuition fees themselves by August 26, 2018.
This came as a shock to everyone, including Marsha Lynch, whose daughter has been accepted at the Cave Hill campus.
Lynch told Barbados TODAY she was advised by the campus’ admissions department that in the absence of official notification from Government, her daughter would be required to pay $6,000 in tuition fees.
The concerned mum said she was also told that the monies would be reimbursed as soon as the financial arrangements were finalized.
Unhappy with the university’s position, Lynch sought clarification from the tertiary division of the Ministry of Education, only to be told the university was right.
“They [UWI] is telling me that I could apply to be reimbursed or keep the money on the account to pay the amenities fee over the next three years. This not $600, this a lot of money,” Lynch complained.
“I was under the impression that all my child had to do was apply because Government was paying the fees,” she added.
Several attempts to reach Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw and her Permanent Secretary Sandra Phillips proved unsuccessful.
However, Barbados TODAY contacted the ministry’s tertiary division, which said it had not been told officially to proceed.
“There is no official word on this as yet. Students would have to wait on official word or follow the directive from the University of West Indies, which is to pay the fees,” the ministry official said.
“The decision is up to the student whether or not they want to pay, but nobody has been given official word,” she stressed.
Meantime, a revelation by Director of Communications at the Cave Hill Campus Chelston Lovell suggested that the issue was a matter of timing.
Lovell told Barbados TODAY the university was operating on the premise that tuition was free for Barbadian students as of August 1, 2018.
“The campus’ official policy is that come August 1 no student is expected to pay tuition fees whether you are a new student or a returning student. The only ones that would be paying are those that have an outstanding balance for part of year one or year two,” Lovell said, while adding that some students who owed tuition balances from the previous year were of the misguided view that they would no longer be required to pay those debts with the abolition of the tuition fees.
At the same time, the university spokesman said he would seek to determine whether or not the Ministry of Finance had officially advised the campus of the policy change.
“It may be a case of too much information coming in too soon, but all of it has to be worked out and I guess the campus’ financial arrangements have been caught up in that . . . . There would have to be something that comes from the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Finance,” he explained.
In her mini Budget presented on June 11, Mottley, who is also Minister of Finance, said effective September undergraduate students attending UWI would no longer pay tuition fees, fulfilling one of the signature campaign promises of the Barbados Labour Party.
“We will abolish undergraduate tuition fees for those attending the University of the West Indies with effect from the next semester. In return we will require each student to contribute to the development of social capital by giving back a minimum of 100 hours in approved service to the country,” she said at the time, while promising to introduce “safeguards against the explosion of enrolment”.
She also revealed that reversal of the decision made by the then ruling Democratic Labour Party in 2013, and which took effect the following year, would cost Barbadian taxpayers an additional $22 million annually.