UWI students livid over increase in fees for courses linked to US dollar

UWI students livid over increase in fees for courses linked to US dollar

Thursday, July 30, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Scores of students of The University of the West Indies (UWI), will be facing higher fees in the new school year despite a promise from the leadership of the university that it would not be increasing tuition fees.

Jamaican students, whose programme fees are quoted in United States (US) dollars, will be asked to pay more as The UWI has increased the exchange rate it uses to calculate fees set in that currency.

The university has increased its exchange rate from J$135 to US$1, to J$141 for US$1.

Most students affected hail from the faculties of Law, Medical Sciences and Engineering.

With the change, nursing students will pay $30,000 more for their tuition fees.

Law, engineering and pharmacy students will pay $60,000 more, while students studying medicine and surgery and dentistry will see their tuition fees increase by $168,000. Animation and film studies students will see an increase of $39,000 and $45,000 respectively.

President of the Mona Law Society, Jhenelle Small, took to social media platform Twitter to express her dissatisfaction with the administration continuing to quote some tuitions in US dollars.

“Our fees do not need to be quoted in US dollars. There is no benefit to students as we are already disadvantaged given that most programmes quoted in US dollars are non-sponsored and are dependent on the fluctuations of the Jamaican dollar, which has no hopes of coming down,” Small tweeted.

The 21-year-old third-year law student also argued that quoting fees in US dollars is nothing but a strategy for the university to treat students pursuing these programmes as cash makers.

“This has been a long-standing issue that many representatives have spoken on without resolution,” said Small, who noted that her education is primarily financed through the Students' Loan Bureau's (SLB) Pay as You Study Programme, the Mona Law Bursary and contribution from her parents.

Small noted that the SLB's Pay as You Study loan mandates that students make a set monthly payment. It is also offered to most students with tuitions of over J$1 million. Small had plans to go on the work and travel programme; however, her plan was stunted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[The increase] will greatly affect my ability to afford higher education. SLB loans only assist with J$1 million, leaving me to find the rest. Even with the current bursary I was awarded, there is still a great deficit that I will need to pay,” the Mona Law Society President told OBSERVER ONLINE.

Small also noted that although her situation is not desirable, it is significantly better than other students' circumstances.

She said at least five law students have indicated that they will have to take a leave of absence because they cannot afford the tuition.

In the meantime, second-year student Petajhay Shelly said the increase will bring a financial strain on her family.

According to Shelly, The UWI administration is acting in an unethical fashion with complete disregard for the situation of its students.

The university has indicated that it will examine the concerns of the students.

Fitsroy Randall

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