Barbadian undergraduate students at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) will not have to dig into their pockets to pay their tuition fees after all.
The university today said it had finally received official word from the Ministry of Education confirming that Government would indeed cover the costs.
This has put to bed concerns raised last week by a number of parents and students, who had complained that they were being told by UWI they would have to meet the tuition costs themselves in the absence of official word from Government.
“The university has been given the necessary assurances and has received the requisite correspondence about the new policy becoming effective from the coming semester,” Director of Communications Chelston Lovell told Barbados TODAY.
It was last Wednesday that Barbados TODAY reported that students showing up to enrol at the university for the upcoming semester, which begins on August 20, were being told they must pay tuition fees themselves by August 26, 2018, despite Government’s promise a month earlier to foot their tuition bill.
This came as a shock to everyone, including Marsha Lynch, whose daughter has been accepted at the Cave Hill campus.
Lynch said at the time 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.
“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.
“I was under the impression that all my child had to do was apply because Government was paying the fees,” Lynch said then.
This was confirmed by an official of the tertiary division of the Ministry of Education who told Barbados TODAY then there was “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.
Following the publication of the report, a meeting was held on Friday between the university’s senior management and officials from the Ministry of Education, after which, Lovell said, the ministry gave written authorization for UWI to proceed with the policy at the start of the new academic year.
However, Lovell explained that the situation surrounding postgraduate students was a lot murkier, as the university was still awaiting confirmation of how Government intended to address their tuition.
“Where there was some uncertainty is in relation to the level of support that Government is giving to postgraduate students,” the UWI spokesman said.
“Bear in mind that Government only spoke specifically to undergraduate students, but they also promised some level of support to postgraduate students who were pursuing areas of study . . . considered critical, or if you got a first class or upper second degree at the undergraduate level. So there is some uncertainty there because it hasn’t all been spelt out as yet,” he added, while expressing confidence that the ambiguity would soon be cleared.
Therefore, Lovell advised those considering applying for postgraduate studies to do so, as the possibility continued to exist that their course of study would qualify for Government funding.
“People who are hesitant to apply for postgraduate studies because they are not sure whether or not Government will fund their programme must understand that significant support is coming for certain key areas,” he stressed.
In her mini Budget presented on June 11, Prime Minister Mia 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.