LETTER OF THE DAY - UTech students will bear the burden
The Editor, Sir:
In an economy characterised by great uncertainty which results in desperate measures by the Government to correct these factors, and band-aids where necessary, I find it hard to fathom the administration's rationale for cutting the subvention given to university students when their aim should be to implement some corrective measures/systems in place to take the country out of a recession and ultimately growth in the medium to long term.
Our Government had promised that there would be a "nominal freeze" on the annual subsidy to these institutions rather than a cut. Simply put, they had no intention of making any cuts in the subvention given to the universities. Now the Government has cut the education budget across the board.
The minister is quoted as saying any new policy would be gradual, with adequate notice, and would ensure that "no one is worse off and, at least, one person is better off". This begs the question: "What will happen to those students who cannot afford tuition or who do not qualify for student loans, as inefficient and under-financed as it is already? He also promised compensation for anyone who was dislocated during the process, adding that a current student at university should not be "disadvantaged by a new system" being introduced.
The Government knew from indicators that their revenue targets were overstated and unattainable, hence, more should be done to prepare students for such changes. A revamp of the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) cannot be subsequent to a cut in subsidies if students are expected to meet the shortfalls in changes to the budget. The University of Technology will see a cut of $146 million to the already low subvention paid in comparison to our neighbouring university. The UWI has been cut by more than $1.4 billion this time around.
With this news being communicated just before the school year ends, it is inevitable that a significant number of students will fall out. In case the minister hasn't realised, most of persons at university are poor and from very humble backgrounds. Again, the poor and vulnerable in society will suffer. Obviously, there is a disconnect between the State and the people/institutions. The aim should be to get poor persons into these institutions, which will contribute to personal development, higher standard of living and, of course, economic growth and sustainable development.
No emphasis on education
It is unclear if the Government sees education as priority as their actions doesn't display such. Instead, we keep funding mature low-impact sectors but not education, which proves to have a positive high impact on economic growth.
Some suggestions expressed by students is the extending of the repayment period, reducing the guarantor to one, make loan-repayment income contingent as well as cheaper loans to finance the SLB, such as PetroCaribe.
This is a crisis indeed, one needs not comment on the consequential burden and repercussions unemployment has on the economy. The only thing the students are left to do is the keep praying and pressuring the different stakeholders to ensure they stick to the plans and increase investment in education. We might as well start collecting bottles to sell to pay for tuition. This is what our Government has left us to do!
I am, etc.,
UTech Students' Union