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jones: bajans may have to pay more for acces to education services

Barbadians may have to pay more to benefit from education.

This was indicated this morning by Minister of Education Ronald Jones, as he led the resumption of debate on a resolution, in which the Government is guaranteeing the repayment of principal and interest on a $41 million loan, borrowed by the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, from the National Insurance Scheme.

In making a case for Barbadians to dig deeper in their pockets for educational services, Jones explained that there had been a 112 per cent explosion in student intake at the Cave Hill Campus during the past 10 years, with an exponential increase in costs.

He said people who stood to benefit from nursery to tertiary, may have to contribute more to their education. The minister of education argued that it was a challenge to meet the funding model exactly as was currently offered. He noted that there was a commitment on both sides of the political divide to continue the process of offering free education, although there was a need to make some changes.

“But we have to find solutions. I don’t want to pretend here that we should continue in perpetuity … to bring education as is currently offered; and if they want to continue to offer it free, we have to have a model operating which says the state will provide what it can. Students will have to continue to pay the fees that they pay at Cave Hill now, the amenity fees and things like that, and expect that it will rise,” he pointed out.

He suggested that persons in the private sector who were great beneficiaries of those leaving Cave Hill, may also have to contribute more through their grants and scholarships to assist in this endeavour. Jones was of the view that there would also have to be a broad-based component agreed to by both political entities, to determine the most appropriate funding model.

“Currently … to really deal with the number of students we have from Barbados at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill and the St. Augustine and Mona, [it would take] about a $167 million [for] educating those students on a full calendar basis. And one must recognise that the financial year of the Government and the financial year of the university don’t coincide. There is a three month difference.

“This year we have put in $71 million for economic costs and another $29 million or $30 million for tuition fee. So it comes to $101 million,” added the minister.

He said it meant that the Government would still have to look for a supplementary of $61 million to support the university.

Jones observed that Cave Hill was now bursting at the seams with an increase in students coming from all over the world, which reflected a shift from an older population to a younger one.†He noted that the female population outstripped the male in all cohorts of tertiary education. However, he revealed that in both genders, 59.6 per cent of the UWI’s roll was 24 years and under; 22.8 per cent was between 25 to 34 age range, 11 per cent in the 35 to 44 age category; 5.7 per cent in the 45 to 54 age group and 0.8 per cent in the 55 and over.

Meanwhile, Jones said the Government still owed the university “some residual money” even with the $41 million the institution had been given. He disclosed that he had held discussions with the university’s administration that involved the ministry of finance on the best way of settling the remaining debt to the learning institution.

He assured that the burden of repaying the loan from the NIS was not on the university, but on the Government. In fact, he said the $41 million had already been spent by the UWI. (EJ)

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