The Barbados government says it will no longer pay tuition fees for nationals studying at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Chris Sinckler in his 2013-14 budget presentation on Tuesday, said that effective 2014, Barbadian students purusing studies at the university’s three campuses will be required to pay their own tuition fees, while the government continues to fund economic costs.
Sinckler said the tuition fees range from BDS$5, 625 to BDS$65,000 (One Barbados dollar=US$0.50 cents) and that the new policy would reduce the transfer to UWI by an estimated BDS$42 million a year.
“The government of Barbados recognizes that access to education at all levels has been a key factor in the success of Barbados as a society and an economy,” Sinckler said, adding that the Freundel Stuart administration “remains committed to, and fully supportive of, the continued growth and development of UWI Cave Hill and increased access to tertiary education for Barbadians”.
He said in 2003/04 the Cave Hill Campus began a major expansion in terms of the numbers of students and the amenities offered.
“In 1999 for example, there were around 3,568 undergraduate students at the Cave Hill and by 2007 this number had increased to around 6,718 and currently stands at around 7,200 students. The expansion has meant major increases in the government of Barbados’ contribution to UWI.”
He said in 2007, the financial contribution of the Barbados government to the university was BDS$79.3 million, a figure that increased to BDS$120.5 million a year later.
“To put things in context, for the entire period 1999 to 2007 combined, the total contribution required from the government of Barbados to the Cave Hill Campus was $543.2 million, compared to the $636.3 million dollar contribution required for the 2008 to 2012 period. The reality is that the amount required in the last five years was $93 million greater than the previous nine years combined.”
Sinckler said the “stark reality” is that since 2006 the total contribution by the government to UWI has exceeded the combined contribution to all of the island’s nursery, primary, secondary schools as well as the Barbados Community College and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic.
“While remaining committed to providing continued access to university education, the government cannot simply continue to preside over a situation where the growth and development of the non-university component education system is severely retarded. The country needs to be able to build capacity at all levels of the education system.
“As a consequence, the government has decided that in an effort to assist it in meeting the exploding costs of university education it has now become necessary to ask students attending and desirous of attending the University of the West Indies to contribute to their education in a more direct manner,” Sincker told legislators.
He said that the Ministry of Education will provide further details on a Means Testing Mechanism to ensure no deserving student is denied access to university education because of the means of their parents.
He said there will also be adjustments to the Student Revolving Loan Scheme to ensure that adequate access to loans with attractive repayment terms is available while the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs will in the coming week work with local finance houses to establish a National Registered Education Savings Plan with appropriate tax allowance provisions for savers. We also expect that our commercial banks, credit unions and other lending agencies will come forward with other attractive packages.
“We appreciate that this is a major shift in policy not just for this administration but for the country as a whole and it will meet with its fair share of criticism. We expect that and will take on board all constructive suggestions as to how we can deal with this very challenging issue.
“However my hope is that the discourse that will no doubt ensue will also take cognizance of the reality that the government simply cannot continue to contract such huge amounts of expenditure for which it knowingly has no sustainable means of meeting,” Sinckler added.