Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Letter of the Day | Rethink university funding model

Published:Friday | May 12, 2017 | 12:00 AM


As a young Jamaican who is the beneficiary of access to tertiary education, I am under no illusions as to the absolute importance of this vital commodity. It cannot be disputed that attendance at a university or college is indeed a privilege and not necessarily a right. However, any country that is serious about the development of human resources and, ultimately, human capital must strive to ensure that this 'privilege' is not only more accessible but, more important, affordable.

It is against this backdrop that one examines the recent actions by the Government to bail out a number of final-year students at the University of the West Indies to the tune of some J$9 million.

While this act is considered a noble one, the precedent set leaves an uneasy taste. This taste is further exacerbated by the fact that some of these students, above 50 per cent, will probably be expending their new-found talents and training in foreign lands. The recent arguments by PM Holness are, indeed, timely and welcome; with our country's renewed focus on economic growth and development, the issues of funding for tertiary education cannot go on unaddressed.

The Students' Loan Bureau, despite best efforts, will not be able to fund the education dreams of all applicants and, as such, we need to arrive at novel ways to satisfy financial requirements, as the demand is on the increase.

The current funding model of direct subsidies to institutions may, in fact, not be the most beneficial or equitable and as such, should indeed be re-examined.

During this re-examination, we should note the important point highlighted by the think tank Caribbean Policy Research Institute, back in 2009, when it noted that "four out of every five tertiary graduates will migrate", thus depriving the nation of their talents and sufficient returns on its investment. Any model arrived at must ensure, as best as possible, ample returns to the country.