By RIEL MAJOR
IN wake of the University of the Bahamas’ recently announced tuition and fee increases, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday his government will be known for “providing education from birth to departure”.
Dr Minnis told reporters on the sidelines of a loan signing ceremony that education is a priority for his government.
“. . .It’s essential for our citizens and students to be educated so they can take advantage of all the job opportunities available,” said Dr Minnis.
When asked for clarification relating to the rise in tuition and fees at UB, Dr Minnis said the government has made a commitment for free education for Bahamians at UB once certain qualifications are met.
“…That commitment still holds. We also made a commitment that those students coming from the Family Islands we understand the stress and strain that they and their family undergo in terms of looking for accommodation so we’ve made a commitment that we must help our brothers and sisters coming from the Family Islands and we provide them with $500 per month to assist them with their lodgement.
“The commitment that we have made we will adhere to, you will note that we have embarked on providing preschool education because we know that with preschool education our citizens have greater opportunities become better leaders, they become managers etc so we’re providing free preschool education for Bahamians.”
Last June, Dr Minnis said: “Beginning in September 2019 all full-time Bahamian students who meet certain entry requirements will receive free tuition (at UB).” Dr Minnis reiterated this promise during a recent Family Island town hall meeting.
In a letter to students a little over a week ago, UB’s Office of University Relations advised that as of fall 2018, the estimated real cost of attendance per student attending the institution was between $26,810 and $30,810 annually inclusive of housing, based on figures provided by the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships.
It added: “As of fall 2019, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships estimates that for first-time, first year students, the annual cost of attendance per student will be between $29,180 and $33,780. Whereas at other institutions approximately 38 percent of the cost of attendance is covered by student tuition and fees, at UB, this accounts for merely 20 percent of the cost of attendance.”
The letter further noted tuition and fees had gone unchanged for 20 years with government subvention covering the minimal operational, educational and growth expenditures.
As of this fall late registration fees will go from $150 to $250; application fees will go from $40 to $50; ID card fees will go from $10 to $20; transcripts and e-transcripts will go from $5 to $20; local status letters — inclusive of enrolment, initial review, progression and completion letters (except initial graduation letters) — will go from $10 to $50; international status letters will go from free to $60; add/drop/withdrawal fees will go from $20 to $25; diploma certificates will go from free to $50 and graduation evaluation fees will go from $100 to $250.
Last week, Education Minister Jeff Lloyd referred to these increases as a “small adjustment.” He said despite the move, the Minnis administration is committed to delivering on its promise of free tuition for UB students who meet certain criteria.
“It has to be said, the University of the Bahamas has, for a long time, been operating with a significant deficit. What this is, is a small adjustment of 15 percent to fees and tuition that we hope can go toward lowering that legacy deficit,” he said.
“We, as a government, have proposed our plan of getting students to UB. And once that is the case, we are committed, and this also important to understand, getting them there with free tuition,” he added.
Mr Lloyd said the government would seek to clarify its “free education” plan in the coming months, suggesting that definitive details would be presented during the 2019-2020 budget debate.