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Give UWI students time

The controversial policy which will see Barbadian students at the University of the West Indies students paying tuition fees from next year should be applied to those who start studying in the 2014-2015 academic year.

This is the position of the Anglican Church’s Social Justice Commission.

However, Chairman John Goddard said yesterday that given the “escalating cost of university education, the current model of funding such education is “unsustainable and is in need of reform”.

The head of the seven-member body said that they accept that the present economic circumstances “make it necessary for urgent action to be taken to reduce the financial burden on government” and therefore in principle, it had “no difficulty” with students being asked to make a contribution to their university education.

“The commission, however, wishes to suggest that since present undergraduates would have entered university with the understanding that they would not have to pay tuition fees, the new provision for fees should not apply to them. Because they would not have budgeted for such expenditure, many of them are likely to experience hardship in meeting the cost. Instead, the commission suggests that payment of tuition fees be applicable to students admitted to the University of the West Indies from the academic year 2014-2015,” he said.

What the commission is suggesting is a means test be implemented with “transparent criteria, so that deserving students, whose economic circumstances do not allow them to afford the fees, are still able to access university education”.

“Government should move with despatch to identify programmes which are critical to national development goals. Students should be encouraged to select from among these areas, especially if they wish to benefit from state payment of tuition. In addition, they should satisfy full matriculation standards and must maintain satisfactory GPA’s.

“The commission also supports an easily accessible student revolving loan scheme to make it possible for those wishing to borrow to finance their education to do so. It further recommends adherence to a policy of a set period for completion of first degrees.

“In making these recommendations, the commission is mindful of not only the economic realities facing Barbados, but also of the necessity to protect the UWI brand. No effort should be spared in ensuring that the university environment is conducive to excellence,” Goddard said. (DS)

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