Stop quoting our tuition in US$!

Letters to the Editor

Stop quoting our tuition in US$!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

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Dear Editor,

I cannot even begin to describe the feeling some of us The University of the West Indies, Mona, law students, among others, are now left with.

Upon acceptance to the university exactly two years ago, my year cohort paid approximately $1.3 million to clear our tuition. If we couldn't pay, we were forced to take a gap year/leave of absence or settle for mediocrity and elude ourselves of the opportunity to reach our full potential. Many students, unfortunately, had to do one of the aforementioned; but for those who were fortunate enough to have support or have received scholarships and grants, the financial burden that comes with pursuing higher education was alleviated.

Fast-forward to the 2019/20 academic year, which just ended, the university's administration informed students that there would be an increase in fees to $1.35 million. Why was there this increase? Because our tuition fell victim to the fluctuation of the Jamaican dollar, as it is quoted in US dollars, seemingly to get us to add an additional organ or two to the arm and a leg we would already be required to pay. Every year, we've advocated and every year we've seen little to no shift.

As a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic students are now faced with harsher realities, which means many law students have had to resort to undesired options, including taking a leave of absence. Nonetheless, what we had hoped was that the university would have wholly appreciated the fact that its customers — no, students — are struggling mentally and praying for some form of financial break or a reduction in tuition fees in the upcoming academic year. Some form of reduction would have been especially helpful in light of the online schooling we embarked upon to complete our most recent semester. This required us to use more of our own resources, posing yet another challenge.

Instead, we've been fed the notion that tuition fees will not be raised this year, but there will be adjustments to fees quoted in US dollars. Our interpretation led us to believe that an adjustment would mean that a fluctuation in the US dollar would not affect the amount we would have to pay in Jamaican dollars. The university, however, had other plans for us.

In 2014 the tuition was $1.13 million. In 2015, students had to pay $1.15 million, and in 2016 the figure stood tall at $1.19. Students are, however, now to pay an estimated $1.41 million for the 2020/21 academic year. Subjecting students to such an increase is reprehensible! A global pandemic has already left families devastated. Many students who had been sponsored, receiving some cushioning, some form of financial support in the form of scholarships and grants, are no longer receiving them due to companies' financial cutbacks in light of the effects of COVID-19. Do I even need to mention the fact that not all students will be granted student loans and those who do receive loans won't have tuitions covered in their entirety as the maximum loan coverage extended is $1 million? Even so, it is still a massive struggle for many students to find the additional $410,000 to finance their education for the year. The university might offer payment plans, but even those have deadlines, with late fees attached as penalties.

From a student's point of view it doesn't seem as if the university cares about us. What else are students left to believe? We've worked so hard to complete this leg of our journey — through masks and power cuts — and, with these financial roadblocks, our futures have been severely derailed. It seems the quality of mercy is indeed strained.

I have no choice but to conclude that The UWI no longer operates as an educational institution, but solely as a business — with questionable customer service, mind you. Rather than fulfilling its mission “to advance learning, to create knowledge…for a positive [societal] transformation”, it has once against made it financially harder to attain quality higher education. This should now become a national conversation.

We need Jamaica to invest in us. We need The UWI to do right by us.

O'Neil Corinaldie

2nd Vice-President

Mona Law Society

The UWI, Mona

c/o tamoycampbell25@gmail.com


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