Fees the focus at UWI
Classes are poised to begin at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and students are registering for their courses.
The talk around the Cave Hill campus now is about local undergraduate students having to pay tuition fees for the first time from next year, so Street Beat spoke to a few of them about the change.
“It will hurt,” said fresher Alex Stuart.
He is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounts so will be affected by the policy change. However, he said he would be able to handle it.
“Government will do what it has to and I can cover it but it will hurt, especially the ones now coming in as it is a lot of money,” he said. Those already enrolled in courses which continue into next year would be “stuck”, Stuart added.
Despite this, he said Cave Hill was still the best place to learn to be an accountant and he felt confident he would achieve his goals.
His friend Michelle Lofgren is doing a double major programme – accounts and finance. She is in her final year and said she was looking to leave UWI before the policy change came into effect. She said the new fee requirement would either drive people away from the university or affect what courses they decided to study.
“I know of friends who said ‘UWI not seeing me’,” Lofgren said.
“Social sciences students would have to pay the least amount so I think a lot of people will also go into the social sciences and everybody will want to be accountants . . . .”
Another student, who requested anonymity, said the fees would make it all but impossible for some people.
“Jobs are already hard to get and some employers either don’t want to or can’t work around a part-time schedule so it is hard to juggle a part-time job if you can get one and attend UWI,” she said.
“For me, I had to give up my job and study for my degree because I see it as important. When the fees are implemented, it will happen during my final year; now how do you think I would feel having spent three years at UWI to complete a degree but can’t do it simply because I don’t have the finances?”
Shaquille Callender is studying psychology. As such, he said the fees would not be hitting him as hard.
“I can still see how rough it would be but if Government didn’t have a choice, they wouldn’t have implemented the policy. If I have to, I will take a loan,” he said.
Callender said psychology was his calling as people naturally liked to speak to him and told him he was able to help them. In addition, he said, “there’s a lot of disturbed people in the world”.
At 42, Jepter Lorde is one of the mature students on campus. He is in his final year studying politics and economics and said UWI’s “free ride” was over.
“Sacrifices have to be made. At the end of the day, this place has had its free ride; everybody has to make a contribution and this is the contribution that has to be made now. I would prefer if it could have been over a period of time but obviously the can has been kicked as far down the road as it can and the time for reckoning is now – what are you going to do?” he said.
Lorde said he thought the measures taken were designed to weed out some students and thus relieve Government of paying some of the economic costs, adding that the university’s population would gradually shift from predominantly regional students to international ones.
As for his future, Lorde said he was collaborating with a group of like-minded students to form a Caribbean think tank to offer support for potential investors in the region – “a cadre of individuals across a number of disciplines bringing their skills to bear”.
Andrea Phillips was relaxing peacefully with her son Shamar going over her course plans. She is in her last year studying linguistics, which she said would be beneficial for her job. She said she’d rather not speak on the fees issue, preferring to comment instead on the camaraderie at UWI.
“When I first came here there were a set of young children but they formed pairs with us older ones and we helped each other,” she said.
However, Shamar was less than enthusiastic. The Coleridge & Parry student complained that his mother’s studying was a major inconvenience.
“When she’s at class, I have to stay at my grandmother at night. I want to be in my own bed,” he said.