The economic difficulties being faced by the Freundel Stuart Administration are forcing it to revamp tertiary education funding .
Speaking to reporters after addressing the groundbreaking ceremony for construction of the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus this morning, Minister of Education Ronald Jones indicated that the review would start with tertiary level institutions, where most of the Government’s education budget was spent.
Jones said while Barbadian students would now have to assist in footing the bill for the various services at their tertiary educational institutions, his ministry was currently in the early stages of working out a model which would make it very easy for the students to obtain the required money and repay over a period.
Such a model, he argued, would relieve the financial burden on the UWI. He pointed out that the pressure was being felt particularly at the tertiary level. Jones noted that Barbadian students studying at Cave Hill and at similar level institutions across the Caribbean must continue to be supported, even though the university in Barbados especially, was in financial problems.
“How do we ensure, in making adjustments, that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We can’t! But we have to look at a methodology of saying that in these difficult times, the Government will still support the major economic costs, the Government will support the major tuition fee structure in the system. But we have to have students stepping up to the plate,” added the minister of education.
“We have looked and continue to look at the costs that make up university life. And a significant cost comes in relation to student services…, student amenities and all of that. And because we don’t want to damage students (studying) now and in the future, we are going to have to say to students, you are going to have to take on a little more of those services that impact on you directly.”
Jones said that already his ministry had identified at least 12 such services.
“And the State will make it possible… If you have to make a contribution to your amenities fees beyond what you currently are now [paying]; which is like nine-something, and it has to go up in the structure, we are not saying to you, up front, find it. We will provide the mechanisms through which you can and say, ‘Look, I need $3,000 or I need $3,500’.
“And we will say to you, here it is … over the three years as a full-time student, or when you prorate it as a part-time student; here, this is what would assist you. After you finish your journey [and] you find employment, maybe $100 a month … you can pay back…”
Jones revealed that within the next five weeks, he would bring his colleagues in the Government into the discussion.
“I have had very brief discussion with the minister of finance, because the minister of education in this country, must look at it holistically and present it to the State as a structure,” he reported.
Jones said a similar review would also be done at the Barbados Community College and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic to see what financial efficiencies could be gained. He said just as there were students services at the UWI, there needed to be more at BCC and SJPP, as well.
“Right now in the two institutions, there is a two-tiered system. Full-time students in the day don’t pay, evening students do. Is that fair? Is that equitable or are we going to create a balance, where all students will make a small contribution to their education — to the services?
“We need more services at BCC and SJPP, and at Ersdiston College,” the Cabinet minister pointed out.