June 25, 2017

UG students brace for increased tuition fees

The fees’ hike, which took students completely by surprise, has already been greeted with protests

The fees’ hike, which took students completely by surprise, has already been greeted with protests

Following the decision to raise tuition fees at the University of Guyana over the next three years, the UG Student Society (UGSS) is rallying to the challenges that will be faced by students who will have to deal with the tuition fee increases.

The fees’ hike, which took students completely by surprise, has already been greeted with protests

In a phone interview with this publication, UGSS President Ron Glasgow revealed that the next three weeks would see the students’ representative body consulting and soliciting feedback from the student population on the best way forward.

He said the initial fee hike of 15 per cent would take effect in September of this year, so there was some leeway in terms of time.

UG’s Council had approved the 15 per cent increase in fees, as the first step in its move to see an overall 35 per cent tuition increase over a three-year period, at a March 30 extraordinary meeting of the Council. That meeting was picketed by students of the institution.

The meeting, which was chaired by Chancellor Eon Nigel Harris, made the decision following an examination of the University’s projected budget deficit, the pressing needs of the institution, and projected alternative income streams.

The University had stated that even with the “unavoidable adjustments”, fees at the institution would still be comparatively lower than regional counterparts.

According to UG, the Council’s decision will be applied to tuition fees for all programmes and for both continuing students and new students in the 2017-2018 academic year.

However, it said input from the UGSS was considered, leading to an incremental rollout, where continuing students would now pay an increase of 15 per cent (about G$2500 a month), and new students an increase of 18 per cent (about G$3000 a month).

The decision to raise fees has not been a popular one, with several observers raising concerns about the financial challenges many students and their families already face. When asked about the increases on Friday, Finance Minister Winston Jordan had downplayed the concerns.

The Minister said it was irrelevant what the per capita income was (the average amount of money being earned per person). He also noted that if students wanted quality education, they would have to pay for it.

Meanwhile, while the decision to increase tuition has been made, the University is still battling with its senior staff with regard to negotiations for their salary increase.

At the same meeting, the Council also authorised the UG Administration to commence negotiations with the two unions at the tertiary institution for remuneration packages based on what the University could afford.

The Council said it also received clarification from the Finance Ministry that the claim by the unions that the Government of Guyana had provided a fixed sum of money for salaries, which would amount to a 15 per cent salary increase, was inaccurate.

In this context, the UG Administration will continue to analyse the University’s budget to determine the fullest possible extent of affordability. It also was stressed that staff performance would be a key factor in determining salaries and benefits, whether monetary or non-monetary.