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Member of Parliament (MP) Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert has blasted the University of Technology (UTech) for what she describes as its poor treatment of students who face difficulties making tuition payments.
Dalrymple-Philibert raised concerns about the university's approach to fee collection last week while addressing administrators of the higher-education institution during their appearance before the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of the House of Representatives.
"We have students who have struggled to make payment for fees when they get to final year. in some cases, they would come to the Member of Parliament and we write and give an undertaking ... from the Constituency Development Fund, but the hassle and the unkindness that students go through is not to me helping to develop our country at this time ... people can't study when they have that on them," she said to UTech officials.
Pointing to a number of cases where she has assisted students with tuition payments, the South Trelawny MP charged that the poor treatment of students facing difficulty paying fees is a systemic problem at UTech.
She called for intervention from the leadership of the university, to prevent students from being deregistered from courses when they have difficulties paying tuition.
"Yes, you need money ... but it should not be that almost at the end of their education, students should have to beg and scrounge like that so that they can be allowed to sit their exams, and I am particularly unhappy with UTech about this," she added.
In giving his response to charges levied by Dalrymple-Philibert, UTech Acting President Professor Colin Gyles, while admitting that he has heard of similar complaints, said he was particularly sad to learn that the university is viewed as uncaring in its approach to needy students.
"Everytime I hear it, it bleeds my heart, because it is not something that we foster or want to encourage, and it does not represent the overall posture of the institution," he told members of the PAAC.
Gyles further went on to outline that the university has taken several steps to accommodate students who have difficulty paying their tuition fees. He, however, argued that collection of fees is of critical importance, given that 69 per cent of UTech's operating cost is covered by tuition fees paid by students.
With a student population of 13,000 students, UTech receives a government subvention of $1.9 billion, which covers 31 per cent of its operational costs.
"We have to be very careful in trying to ensure that we do collect the funds, because if we don't, we won't be able to pay the lecturers and produce the material for students to do their studies," he said.
The acting president also offered a personal apology for the cases of needy students who have been mistreated by the university and made a commitment to take steps to reduce such cases.