T&T govt rejects UWI proposal for increase in fees

Port Of Spain – The Trinidad and Tobago government has rejected a proposal from the St Augustine campus of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), for an increase in tuition fees, suggesting instead that the regional tertiary institution campus finds other ways to address financial shortfalls including review of the courses offered.

“We have been faced with a challenge with the St Augustine campus continuing to ask us for large sums of money. We spend somewhere in the vicinity of TT$500 million a year as a direct contribution. And then you have to add Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses Programme (GATE) funding to that. I would say, at least TT$200 million in addition,” said Finance Minister, Colm Imbert, who is also chairman of the UWI Grants Committee.

The proposal for the increase came in response to the Trinidad and Tobago government’s intention to implement a ten per cent reduction in its subvention to The UWI for the 2022-23 academic year, resulting in a cut of more than TT$50 million from the current subvention.

On May 13, Imbert, Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minister of Housing and Urban Development Camille Robinson-Regis and attorney and government back bencher Keith Scotland, as a prime ministerial-appointed committee, met with St Augustine Guild on the issue of raising fees, given the government’s reduced subvention.

Gadsby-Dolly said the increased fees would have seen students paying between 25 to 71 per cent more depending on the course of study.

Imbert, who was flanked by Gadsby-Dolly at the weekly Cabinet press conference on Thursday, said, while government could not direct the campus on how to run its affairs, it was suggested that some of its 300 courses  re-examined.

“So you have a vast array of courses and you have 16,000, 17,000 students . . . . The university needs to look at all the courses that they want the Government and the country to pay for.

“We are not going to tell them what courses to put on, but we believe that they need to look at all these courses they are offering and decide which ones the Government should pay for.

“That is our response to their proposal that they increase tuition fees. Because we think that that increase in tuition fees should be a last resort [and that] The UWI has to look within first, and see whether they have not overextended themselves. Because the cost to the state is directly proportional to the number of students and the number of courses that are being offered,” Imbert said.

Gadsby-Dolly acknowledged that fees at the St Augustine campus had not increased in 21 years in contrast to Mona and Cave Hill campuses of the university, which had increased their fees in line with inflation.

At Mona and Cave Hill, students contribute 20 per cent of the cost of tuition, whereas at St Augustine students contribute 13 per cent, with these fees being the lowest in the region, she said.

But she told reporters that the Government currently contributes 82 per cent of the campuses’ annual budget.

“The committee recommended that the St Augustine campus do an in-depth cost analysis and, of course, efficacy analysis looking at all the courses they offer; looking at enrolment and considering how we could possibly reduce where it possible. That information has been requested of the UWI, some have been supplied. So we will be preparing all of that and looking at it as we follow up during this academic year.”

Gadsby-Dolly added that the Government did not to support an increase in university fees at this time and would come to a conclusion for next year after receiving the information from the campus officials. No time frame was given for the campus to submit the information, the Education Minister said. (CMC)

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