Mon | Jan 17, 2022

Letter of the Day | Higher education is expensive and out of reach

Published:Friday | December 3, 2021 | 12:06 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

I think it is the perfect time to express my disappointment in the system we have in Jamaica, considering this crime epidemic. As a young man from a volatile community in St Catherine, I write from experience when I say more needs to be done to mobilise at-risk youths and show them that there are other options other than crime. My problem is with tertiary education and funding. Though I must commend the nation in making primary and basic level education free while secondary education is not affordable for almost all of us, and at the university level it is a nightmare.

Having been barred from registering and sitting my exams this semester after completing, so far, a year and a half of my studies, despite being a student loan recipient I cannot help but be frustrated.

As a law student at The University of the West Indies, Mona, I am expected to pay US$10,000 every year, which is currently approximately $1.5 million. This amount fluctuates with the movement of the Jamaican dollar. With the Students’ Loan Bureau, our primary and, to my knowledge, only student lending agency providing the maximum $1 million to law students, we are left to find the remainder of the fees, which can be difficult. Coming from a single-parent home with my family members hardly ever employed, it is God’s good graces and contributions that I have managed to pull in that have brought me this far.

DIFFICULT TO GET A SCHOLARSHIP

What is even more alarming is how difficult it is for me to get a scholarship or grant. Having maintained a GPA of 3.6, which sees me being placed on the dean’s list of high achievers and maintaining a presence in extra co-curricular activities, I have applied for many, without any success. I wonder what message the system is trying to communicate; is it that as a ‘ghetto’ youth higher-level education is not for me but should be left for the elite among us? Or probably, with student loan fully covering the cheaper programmes, should a young person like me stick to those areas we can afford, which further adds to the class divide in our society.

Whatever the message is, I am pretty sure it is not a positive one for persons who are trying to make a meaningful impact on society and are being hampered by the glass ceiling. In times like these we need to step back and reflect on whether we are really helping the youths of our future to reach their highest potential, or do we just neglect them to find ways of doing it on their own, which may be contributing to our crime. The struggle is real, and help is needed.

J.B.