Carroll Edwards | UWI rejects claim of callousness on fees
The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, notes comments made by the president of the UWI Mona Debating and Public Speaking Society, Akeela N. Marin, in a letter to the editor on Friday, April 21, 2017, regarding the university's stance on the non-payment of tuition fees by finalising students.
The writer claimed that Mona would be receiving $300 million from the Government to assist final-year students who are being barred from sitting final exams. She further stated that "the point at which the administration demands ... payment (of tuition fees) clearly shows that the institution is more concerned with dollars and cents than it is with student advancement and development".
The university totally refutes the assertions by the letter writer. First, the funds being provided by the Government of Jamaica is for students on PATH in several tertiary institutions and will come into effect in September 2017. Mona has been allocated $100 million of this sum. Second, with reference to the timing of the request for payment of fees, the notice to all finalising students concerning the deadlines was first sent in JUNE 2016. Subsequent reminders were sent in September 2016, November 2016, January 2017, February 2017, and March 2017 (final notice).
The claim by students that they were not advised of the regulations, or of the various deadlines for payment of fees, is, therefore, without merit.
The university's policy on the payment of fees is also a matter of public record and is communicated to all students, on entry to the institution, and periodically during the semester as follows:
1. All fees are due and payable at the start of the academic year. However, students may pay per semester. Such fees are due and payable at the start of each semester.
2. Students who are unable to pay fees in full either for the year or for a semester are encouraged to enter into an official payment plan for the payment of fees. Students who honour the payment plans are allowed to register and, therefore, sit examinations.
3. Students with outstanding balances for a prior semester or prior year are not allowed to register. However, students are permitted to register if their current semester's fee is outstanding. In other words, students may owe fees for the current semester and be allowed to register as long as they clear the fees for the previous semester. The sitting of examinations is dependent on an active registration. The UWI, Mona, is not aware of any other tertiary institution that affords its students this latitude.
4. Finalising students - that is, students who are expected to graduate at the end of the academic year - are required to pay all outstanding fees for Semesters 1 and 2 in order to be duly registered, and, therefore, to sit examinations at the end of Semester 2. The reasons for this are clear as once the students leave the institution, the university has no further claim on them. Students who are currently deemed to be finalising were required to pay 50 per cent of their outstanding balance by February 24, 2017, and the remaining 50 per cent by April 14, 2017.
Ample time to plan
The policy concerning the finalising students was developed in collaboration with the current guild president, who considered the fact that the early notice should give students and parents ample time to plan for the school year. In our letter to the students in June 2016, The UWI, Mona, stated: "As the campus seeks to support you in your financial planning for the new academic year, we are providing early notice of the regulations governing the payment of tuition fees for the 2016-2017 academic year. It is our sincere hope that you will use this advance notice to put proper arrangements in place to minimise any undue interruptions to your studies."
It is clear that far from acting "in a way that is detrimental to students", the institution has consistently extended lines of credit to its students and has been in constant dialogue to ensure that students are aware of relevant deadlines and facilitated in any arrangements to meet their obligations. We should also point out that the campus provides nearly $1 billion annually to assist students with tuition, living expenses, and even food.
The letter writer also suggested that the university allow students to sit examinations but withhold transcripts or certificates as one method of ensuring payment of outstanding fees. This method has been tried over the years and has failed. The university now has in storage hundreds of uncollected certificates belonging to students who took advantage of this approach, and have departed, leaving the university with huge student receivables.