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UCC Report: Tips for financing higher education

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Acquiring tertiary education, given the cost today, is as serious a decision as buying a car or even a house. It is not a decision to be taken lightly and needs to be approached with the same degree of thought and consideration as any other major financial investment. Education is an investment in your future, from which a person expects to earn future returns over time, much as would be expected from a stock portfolio or rental property.

At the University College of the Caribbean (UCC) we try to be as flexible as possible in order to meet students' needs. Accordingly, we have three intake periods each year, January, May and September. This will offer greater flexibility with when and how you commence studies. We also offer face-to-face and distance study options, as well as early-bird (7:00 a.m.) class times, rather than evening classes only. At the UCC, we also work with you to enable you to make your tuition payments over the duration of your programme of study.

prepare a budget

Having chosen the institution that you want to attend, and the programme of study that you want to pursue, one needs to then "do the math", namely, prepare a budget outlining the costs associated with the programme of study. Some of the costs to consider are:

Tuition - The full cost for the duration of the programme must be considered and provision should be made (where applicable) for increases during the period in question. Increases may be as a result of changes in exchange rates or adjustments made by the institution to reflect rising costs. It may be useful to determine the last time tuition was increased for the particular course of study, and the rate of increase, so as to predict the likelihood of further increases.

Books - Where these are not part of the package, ask for an estimate of this cost for the programme.

Stationery, meals, additional transportation - estimate a figure for these.

Computer and Internet - in today's world both will be needed, so budget for them. If you can't afford to purchase a computer, then determine how you are going to be able to have access to one to enable you to write projects and prepare assignments. Handwritten documents are only accepted in the exam.

Miscellaneous expenses - this is your catch-all for anything else that may come up, and something will. Plan for the unexpected, and in today's world this may even mean losing your job. Be prepared.

Having identified your costs, then look at your income. What can you afford or where can you get financing? UCC, as a policy, tries to assist students with funding their education in a number of ways. We allow students to pay tuition in lump sums for an entire year, locking in the existing rate while also offering a discount when payment is made this way. If this is not an option that you can utilise, then we also allow for incremental payments either by semester, module or even monthly instalments. The aim is to enable our students to have the best of both worlds, quality education at an affordable price, with payments being made in a manner that facilitates the student. UCC also offers scholarships and, in some instances, will employ members of their full-time student body at the University. We also provide the following incentives for our students:

UCC Fee Incentives

MAGNA Partnership - students are able to earn points on their MAGNA cards for payments made at the UCC Book and Gift Centre and Cafeteria. Vouchers can also be redeemed and used towards tuition payments.

Fee deferral - A 25 per cent fee deferral is available to applicants who have lost their jobs through redundancy from January 2009 (conditions apply).

Fee moratorium - Students who have been accepted in the January 2010 session now have an extra month to pay their tuition. A one-month interest-free moratorium is now in place. Students may start classes and make first payment as late as February 1, 2010.

Referral/Ambassador programme - New students can receive a five per cent discount on their first term's tuition fees, if they refer another applicant to the programme, who also starts in January 2010.