Positive turn in UWI enrollment numbers

Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler believes the enrollment numbers at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus are beginning to “stabilize”.

In fact, Sinckler said Government is on course to realize its prediction that the number of students entering the institution would start to return to previous figures within a four-year period.

Effective academic year 2014/2015 students were asked to pay a portion of their tuition fees and officials of the learning institution have since reported a decline in student enrollment a result of the new policy.

Principal Eudine Barriteau reported at the end of August 2015 that the enrollment for that year plummeted to about 4,772, down from the 6,936 students when the policy was first introduced in 2014, and 8,711 in 2013.

Speaking in Parliament Friday, as the Estimates debate shifted to the education sector, Sinckler admitted that the decision to ask students to pay was a “painful” one.

However, he said it was better than limiting the number of students for whom the Government would foot the entire bill, adding that Government took the decision after “wrestling with all the ideas” of how to address the high costs it was faced with.

“Yes, some people have fallen through and we have to find a way to get more of them back in. I believe the numbers are beginning to stabilize and you are beginning to see them now come back up a little bit. We expected that it would take about four [or] five years for that to settle down and I think we are on a trajectory where we can improve that,” Sinckler said.

“This is not a callous, wild, indifferent or insensitive decision by the Democratic Labour Party. I believe the decision we took to ask students to pay a little bit for their tuition eventually will show, many decades from now, to have been the correct decision in saving an overall system of tertiary education at university level and has allowed us to buy some time to do some more engineering as is required to ensure we get the right [number] of graduates out in the right areas that we desire at the right levels that are required,” he added.

Sinckler said it would also give Government time to continue with “specific development of education for all”. (MM)

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