One representative body in Jamaica believes businesses, which benefit from employing University of the West Indies (UWI) graduates, should share the tuition costs at the regional tertiary education learning facility.
The West Indies Group of University Teachers (WIGUT) in Kingston said the private sector should be made to put a portion of their earnings towards a special fund to help the cash-strapped UWI as officials seek ways to fund the regional institution.
WIGUT, a registered trade union representing some 1,000 members of the academic, senior administrative and professional staff at the Mona Campus and other university locations, except Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, was responding to the latest report of the UWI Chancellor’s Commission.
In addition to the Mona Campus headquarters in Kingston, the UWI consists of the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, the St Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago, UWI Five Island in Antigua and Barbuda and several Open Campuses across the region.
While pointing to several structural and operational deficiencies, the recent damning report, recognized that students were having difficulty paying the 20 per cent tuition cost, which was contributing to the learning institution’s financial woes.
The report recommended that this portion be increased to about 40 per cent, and the contribution of countries be decreased to a matching 60 per cent.
WIGUT dismissed that suggestion, saying it was simply not logical, while also dismissing the suggestion that a contingency loan model should be explored.
The group, which describes itself as a stakeholder in the future of the UWI, said its response to the Chancellor’s Report, was a recommendation on how the people and government of Jamaica should respond.
Pointing out that some industries of the private sector employed large numbers of university graduates, WIGUT said this made them “special beneficiaries” of university education and therefore they should be “obliged”, through a 0.5 per cent charge on their graduate worker payroll, to contribute to a higher education tuition fee pool.
It explained that this pool would be used to fund the tuition fees of students from families “in the bottom 30 per cent of household incomes”.
Making its case for a private sector contribution, WIGUT said private sector businesses, especially the larger ones, receive a benefit above and beyond that, which is enjoyed by ordinary individuals living in Jamaica and who pay taxes inclusive of the education tax.
“Businesses employing university graduates, particularly large businesses, increase their productivity by virtue of having such educated people working for them.
“They derive this as an additional and very large benefit from higher education. However, they pay the same percentage in education tax as businesses which employ few or no university graduates,” the group explained, while acknowledging that some businesses do provide support in the form of a few scholarships to “bright and worthy” students.
The Chancellor’s Report had also pointed to the need for the UWI to downsize its student population as one method of tackling its financial woes.
However, WIGUT said on the contrary, the UWI should seek to “right-size” its student population by increasing enrolment, saying this would create a “win-win for all stakeholders”.
“Given its population size and the massive expansion in access to secondary education in Jamaica in the last decade, ‘right-sizing’ UWI in Jamaica actually requires a student population at Mona Campus of 25,000 rather than the present size of 18,000,” the group said.