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UWI Guild wants to meet with Reid to discuss tuition funds

Published:Monday | July 4, 2016 | 7:00 AM

Newly elected President of the Guild of Students at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, Mikiela Gonzales, has signalled her intention to seek a meeting with Minister of Education Ruel Reid to discuss outstanding tuition payments the ministry owes the university.

The Gleaner last week revealed that UWI principal, Professor Archibald McDonald, had written to Reid to secure full or partial payment of the outstanding sum of $182 million which has been owed to the campus for the past three years.

According to the guild president, Opposition Spokes-person on Education Ronald Thwaites should be chastised for not ensuring that the monies were paid, given that he was the responsible minister at the time the commitment for tuition support to students was made.

Thwaites has said that the permanent secretary and the officers of the ministry are responsible for its financial affairs.

"His reasoning that it is the permanent secretary, who is responsible for paying over these monies and not him, is unacceptable. As the minister with responsibility for the ministry and the sector at large, he has the responsibility of all things related to the ministry and its happenings. The buck stops at his feet," Gonzales said.

Thwaites has subsequently explained that provision has been made for the payment of the funds, which are largely for financial assistance to medical and law students who were at risk of being deregistered because of an inability to pay their tuition.

"I spoke with the permanent secretary and he confirmed that they had made provisions for liquidating it. I can't tell you when and by how much," he told The Gleaner.

Gonzales has demanded that the current education minister outline a timetable for making payments on the sums owed.

"This fiasco of whose bill it is and who left how much expenses for who to pay is petty. We expect and demand that the minister quickly and prudently articulate his plan of action to ensure that these monies are paid over to the university," she argued.

Reid has, however, signalled that the ministry will be re-examining its financial assistance programme to medical and law students given that the tuition for these programmes is prohibitive.

He disclosed that many foundations have indicated to the ministry that they will no longer be providing scholarships to medicine and law students.

"I frankly don't see why we can't route all these things through the Students' Loan Bureau ... where grants can be provided ... . I am making provision to see how we can set up a fund to so assist, but I am constrained by those figures, because when I give a $4 million and $3 million to one person when there are many students who just need a $300,000, or $100,000 ... , I am really challenged," he said.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com