Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, says there needs to be a national conversation about making tertiary education more affordable for Jamaicans.
However, Professor Beckles says while the UWI is willing to initiate the conversation, it is a discussion that should be led by the private sector.
The issue of students at the Mona campus facing deregistration because of inability to pay their tuition fees has been a yearly discussion.
In the last two years, the Ministry of Education has stepped in to provide more assistance.
At the moment, the Jamaican government funds 80 per cent of student fees, while students pay the remaining 20 per cent.
At the latest RJR News Forum, Professor Beckles was asked how tertiary education can be made more affordable and suggested that the Jamaican Government, like in Trinidad & Tobago, and Barbados, could see tertiary education as an investment and put up the full cost of tuition fees.
However, he said if the Jamaican government is of the view that the economy could not sustain such an investment, a creative solution can be found.
“I think that it is primariily a conversation for the owners of wealth. I believe that the owners of wealth, working closely with the governnent of Jamaica, we can find a breakthrough. I know that Minister Reid has declared that the strategy for the Ministry of Education is to see at least one graduate for every household, and that is the right step,” he asserted.
Professor Beckles said if the private sector can find the pool of funds with government support to implement the vision of at least one tertiary graduate per household, national transformation will be noticeable in a short time.
He added that despite the hefty investment, the aim is to suppress costs in order to increase input. The professor suggested that the university consider partnering with technical or community colleges to deliver at least the first year of certain degree programmes at a cheaper cost, then students can transition to the university itself to complete their second and third years.