Wed | Nov 14, 2018

80/20 tertiary education funding model not sustainable - minister

Published:Tuesday | May 1, 2018 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin/Gleaner Writer

Plans are currently under way to revise funding mechanisms for tertiary students, as Education Minister Ruel Reid has declared that the existing 80/20 model is not sustainable.

The Government currently funds 80 per cent of the economic cost for tuition fees at the University of the West Indies (UWI), while students pay 20 per cent.

At a press conference at the Ministry of Education yesterday, Reid indicated that it was also the view of the government of Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados that the current economic climate has presented many challenges in maintaining the payment model.

"Overall, all the governments of the region are at one that the current funding model will have to be revised. The 80/20 model is unsustainable based on how the economies of the different countries have performed over time, and there has to be a re-engineering of how the tertiary sector is funded going forward," Reid declared.

"What we are committed to is that students across the region are not disenfranchised. The Government will do all it can to ensure that the students who wish to pursue higher education will have access," he continued.

The education minister revealed that Densil Williams, professor of international business at the UWI, Mona, has been leading a task force in Jamaica to look at alternative funding for Jamaica.

"We were in Barbados on Friday, in fact, dealing with matters relating to the University Council, [and] the finances of the University of the West Indies was a matter high on the agenda," Reid reported. "The matter is so critical that we will have to reconvene and have a special meeting to deal with the overall funding of the University of the West Indies and a revision of its funding policy," he told journalists.

In sharing his view on the proposed change to the funding formula, Oshane Grant, president of the UWI Guild of Students, pointed to the 282 students who are currently unable to sit exams because they had not been able to complete tuition payments.

'I don't believe governments should do away with the 80/20 model; it is a view that is not just supported by myself but the regional guild council," he said.

"Minister Reid has presented before that the majority of our labour force are not educated. If you move away from the [financing model], more persons won't have education. There are other social ills which occur as a result of not having an educated population," he continued.

He added, "The population of the UWI, in terms of registered students, is over 19,000. Almost 13,000 of that number are Jamaicans, and that is because of the 80/20 model. When the Government takes this position [of contributing less towards the economic cost of tuition], what they are then saying is that education is only going to be for a particular class of students."