A day after the University of Guyana (UG) ann-ounced that a number of programmes will see a hike in fees come September, the university’s student body representatives supported the decision and deemed it “long overdue”.
Speaking with Stabroek News yesterday, secretary of the UG Students Society (UGSS) Saieed Khalil, on behalf of the body, said that the tuition increase was necessary. “The circumstances have changed since the 1990s…,” he said. “For instance, the exchange rate has been depreciated and there has been inflation which all necessitates the need for the tuition increase.”
Through a release on Tuesday, the university informed the public that new local students will be required to pay $210,000 per year in tuition fees from the coming semester as opposed to the $127,000 previously paid.
The fee is US$1,000. In 1994, the exchange rate was $127 to US$1 and so the tuition was $127,000. Though there had been inflation, the fee did not reflect this and remained unchanged for 20 years. The current exchange rate is $210 to US$1. There is also a $50,000 facilities fee.
Khalil also noted that there had been a disparity in the fees for programmes that had needed to be addressed. “It’s also a matter of equity on the campus,” he said.
Though the adjustment will affect most students, there are many programmes which will see tuition fees remain the same. However, these programmes will attract the $50,000 facilities fee. Foreign students attending UG will also not see their tuition fees increased but they too will be required to pay a facilities fee of US$250.
“There are programmes such as law and others that pay a tuition rate that reflect reasonably the cost of receiving that education. These tuition rates were not adjusted. These [new] rates usually hit the students paying $127,000 because the $127,000 did not accurately reflect the price of receiving a quality education,” Khalil said.
He further said, “On another front, it is a means of balancing the university’s books. Right now, the cost of providing the students with an education is subsidised by the efforts of lecturers essentially… So what this tuition increase does is redistribute the burden from the lecturers to the students to foot a fair share of the bill for their education.”
According to the UGSS, students had expressed concerns over holding those in authority accountable, especially following the increase. It had been previously noted that a number of the university’s issues had been caused by managerial lapses.
However, Khalil said, students need to be more vigilant when it comes to their education. “Some of the students are talking about accountability.
They’re asking how these new fees are going to benefit them,” he said. He went on, “Accountability is a continuous process…. there’s no one-off warranty. Accountability comes when the students, through their reps, articulate and defend their interest. So next year when there is a new UGSS administration, they [the students] always have to be on the ball. The students have to hold the UGSS’s feet to the fire.”
Over the years, the university had been plagued by a number of issues that had sparked disgust and frustration amongst the student population. “These low tuition rates have over time compromised the quality of education offered,” Khalil said. “It’s common sense. You can’t complain about the washrooms, the lecturers, the rundown facilities and the dogs in the classrooms when in fact that’s what you’re paying for. What I’m saying may seem harsh but it’s reality.”
He also urged students to prioritise their needs. “Some people’s cellphones are more expensive than their tuition. So you have to really think about it; the students have the capacity to pay for phones and laptops – we’re not holding that against them – but you must also have the capacity to pay for your education.”
According to the economics student, Guyana’s tuition fee is “very low when compared to its counterparts in the Caribbean”.
According to the University of the West Indies (UWI) undergraduate financial information booklet 2013-2014 for the St Augustine campus in Trinidad and Tobago, new Social Sciences students are required to pay a tuition fee of TTD$12,000 for a maximum of 30 credits along with a compulsory fee of TTD$965. This equates to US$2,033 or $426,930, more than double UG’s new fee.
“You [the students] need to stay vigilant that what you’re paying for is what you’re getting,” Khalil advised. “If you realise you’re paying your increase and there’s no improvement, there are ways to deal with that.”