UWI final year students granted extension to clear fees

Mikiela Gonzales and Senator Ruel Reid


Final year students at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus who are experiencing challenges clearing outstanding fees have been granted an extension.
Monthly paid persons and parents have been given until the end of this month to settle fees.
For those students who are unable to pay, the Ministry of Education has set aside funds to assist them.
These measures were part of an agreement hammered out last night by representatives from the UWI Guild of Students and a team from the Ministry of Education led by Minister Ruel Reid.
The Ministry intervened after the UWI administration said final year students without financial clearance will not be allowed to sit their examinations.
Mikiela Gonzales, President of UWI Guild of Students, expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting, saying it was solution oriented.

"We're waiting on the administration to give us the official date for the extension and we also are waiting on the minister to, today, explain to us what criteria will be used or how will students start to access (funds) should they deem themselves needy," she told RJR News.

Meanwhile, by next week Monday, the affected students should know with certainty whether they will be allowed to sit their examinations.
The Guild said so far none of the students have missed their exams.
Going forward, the Ministry of Education is to set up a special task force to review the barring of financially-delinquent final year students at UWI from sitting exams.

Needy students

Meanwhile, at Wednesday night's meeting, the Education Minister emphasised that the intervention was to help needy students and was not a mechanism to pay the fees for all students who owed the university.
He said the intervention would consider setting the requirement of a three-year bond or community service similar to that of JamVat in exchange for financial assistance.    
In an interview with RJR News, Senator Reid suggested that there may be obligations imposed on the students for the assistance.  
"I'm really not wanting to go down the road of just giving handouts because in a very difficult situation, I think that whatever assistance we are giving to our young persons, they need to understand the sacrifice that taxpayers have to make, they need to be responsible in giving back to their society, the transforming of their communities and the country as a whole," the minister asserted. 

Additionally, information on tertiary students from households on the PATH programme is to be obtained and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security will be invited to have a representative on the task force being constructed to assist students.

New approach needed 

The Education Minister, in the meantime, has warned that a new approach needs to be taken urgently on how to fund tertiary education.
Mr. Reid argued that tertiary education is expensive and governments across the region who had been offering free tertiary education, have "pulled back" because the initiative is unsustainable.

"Regionally and as a nation we have to face the reality that we have to find a whole new paradigm in how we fund our students through tertiary education," he said, contending that it is likely that such funding could become very similar to a mortgage where "you're gonna spend most of the rest of your life paying back your student loan."


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