Some university students want a free pass - Reid
Education Minister Ruel Reid has said that the ministry discovered that many University of the West Indies students experiencing problems with paying their tuition fees "simply wanted a free pass to complete their studies".
"Some of them in the past would get accommodation to sit their final exams and then that's it; they had no obligation to the university thereafter," the education minister disclosed during a press conference yesterday. He said that it was critical that students had a financial plan.
The education minister indicated that the Government was sticking by arrangements made with universities last year under which students experiencing difficulties with paying tuition fees would be required to sign a promissory note. This would ensure that students were able to do their exams while honouring their commitment of payment to the respective universities.
Barred from exams
Last year, the Government provided $100 million to the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) following complaints from the Guild of Students, which disclosed that more than 1,000 students, including many in their final semester, would have been barred from sitting final exams because they had not paid outstanding fees.
Reid noted that he had been hearing similar complaints this year. But he indicated that proper procedure would have to be followed before any intervention could be made.
"The agreement was that if you had paid your fees up to the point of the semester preceding and you are now finalising and found yourself in financial distress, you would just need to convert that outstanding balance into a promissory note, so that the university would have a firm legal document to recover the outstanding balances," the education minister stated.
"We had to be fair to both the students and the administration. So the students would get an accommodation to sit the exams but, at the same time, for you to sit the exam, you have to sign those documents. That is the arrangement that holds, so we are a little surprised that we see certain indication in the media calling for assistance."
The education minister also said that following the intervention last year, research subsequently showed that many students did not exhaust the necessary channels that were available, including the Students' Loan Bureau and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Through the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education.