Bunting acknowledges that enrollment levels would inevitably fall as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he believes that the figures will be greatly exacerbated by the heightened tuition fees.
The Shadow Minister of Education is also decrying the hike in the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) tuition fees for courses quoted in United States (US) dollars. Although the UWI promised not to increase tuition fees, students are lamenting the additional expenses being passed on to them as a result of fees being pegged to the USD. With the exchange rate nearing $150 JMD to $1 USD, some students are seeing an increase of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It is unconscionable for students to be expected to cough up hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional expenses, just days ahead of the start of their respective programmes. Educational institutions should be acutely aware of the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy generally, and more specifically, on the pockets of Jamaican families”, stated Bunting.
He continued: “Even without the pandemic, many persons are stretched financially to keep students enrolled in school. Now, persons are facing unemployment, are on furlough, or are otherwise uncertain as to when they will see another pay cheque. It is not right for the UWI or any educational institution to hold students at ransom for wanting an education.”
Bunting also indicated that in economic terms, raising school fees does not bode well for the institutions: “When you consider the price elasticity of demand, increased tuition fees will mean fewer students enrolling because they simply cannot afford it. This, in turn, results in an overall loss of revenue for the institutions, and threatens their survival”.
We must do our best to ensure that all Jamaicans have equal access to all levels of education. If this unjust tuition hike is dumped on trying Jamaican families, the consequences will last well beyond the pandemic.
- Countries: Jamaica
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