Schools limit fee increases in light of economic conditions
The austere conditions being faced by many Jamaicans are being taken into consideration by principals as they decide on increases in auxiliary fees for the coming school year.
When The Gleaner spoke with a few principals, they indicated that fees would only increase marginally.
Margaret Brissett-Bolt, principal of Holy Trinity High, indicated that the auxiliary fee of $7,500 will not be increased, but that an extra $1,000 would be charged for physical education (PE) gear.
"I have to consider the population that I cater to, so we will not be increasing fees, but we will just be asking parents to pay for the PE gear," she said.
Vice-principal at Vauxhall High School, Noel Brackenridge, also indicated that the fee of $10,000 charged at his school would not be increased, given the economic conditions.
St Hugh's High, which charges $12,000 for auxiliary fees, is contemplating a minimal increase.
Elizabeth Sheriff, who is bursar at the all-girl institution, said the management of the school was set to meet and make a decision on whether or not there would be an increase.
A bulletin sent out to principals by Chief Education Officer Dr Grace McLean indicated that the Ministry of Education would not increase its tuition grant to schools for the new school year and placed a limit on the amount of increase that could be made on auxiliary fees.
"School administrators are being informed that there will be no changes made to schools' internal tuition grant for the 2015-2016 academic year. The Ministry of Education will, however, accommodate a 10 per cent to 20 per cent increase in auxiliary fees," the bulletin said.
The tuition grant paid to schools now stands at $11,500 per student, a sum which is supplemented by auxiliary fees.
Principal at Mona High, Keven Jones, said his school's auxiliary fee of $6,000 was the lowest in Region One but that he would have to increase this to be on par with other schools in the region.
"There is no way I can operate a school with an auxiliary fee of $6,000 and you have possibly 250 students on PATH (Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education) who don't pay and the others who say they can't afford it. It is unrealistic, so when the ministry is going to send out a blanket statement to say you can only increase by 10 per cent, it is not feasible, and I think they need to look at it on a case-by-case basis," he said.
Further west, at Irwin High, principal Aldin Bellinfantie indicated that he would only be increasing auxiliary fees by $200.
It was $8,800 ... I am not going to increase by much, because I had increased it last year because of our rising technology maintenance costs. I will just be adding $200 to bring it to $9,000, but I will have to discuss this with the board," he said.
With regard to school fees for private schools, secretary of the Jamaican Independent Schools Association and principal at St Andrew Prep School, Janet Walsh-Davis, indicated to The Gleaner that there would also be marginal increases.
"The school leaders have been looking at the current financial climate and, although you know we have nothing else except our school fees to guide us, we have decided that we have to keep it at a minimum in order to buffer the parents, so even though the fees will go up, it won't be anything exorbitant," she said.