Funding tertiary education at UTech
(The following is an edited version of a presentation made by Professor Stephen Vasciannie at a meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament last month):
THE University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), is grateful for the opportunity to take part in this important meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee on access to education for students at the tertiary level.
The university is committed to ensuring access to tertiary education and seeks to retain students when they enter the university community. We recognise, however, that most of our students face financial challenges on the way to completing their studies.
With this in mind, we have sought to put in place a system which allows students to remain at university, subject to conditions that are compatible with the prudent management of the institution.
We seek, as far as possible, to take our students through to completion. Education, in our view, is key to self-actualisation and personal development. Equally, education is central to national development and socio-economic advancement. These core considerations — together with the need to preserve the financial viability of the university — guide our policy on registration of students.
The university does not deregister students once they have registered. The main elements of our system for the registration of students are as follows:
First, all students are required to pay an Enrolment Commitment Fee at the start of the semester: $28,000 for new students, $25,000 for returning students.
Secondly, after paying this enrolment fee, the student is required to pay fees in full by specified date (called the Census Date). For Semester I of the Academic Year 2018/19, this date was October 26, 2018. Thus students had about seven weeks from the start of teaching in which to pay their fees.
Thirdly, if a student is unable to pay fees, she or he may enter into a payment plan with the university. Usually, for a payment plan, the student is called upon to pay 55 per cent of the fee and to undertake to pay the remainder at a later date. With a payment plan in place the student has the rights of a fully-paid up student and, most importantly, may take examinations.
Fourthly, if a student is unable to pay fees by the Census Date, and does not enter into a payment plan, he or she may still take examinations at the end of the semester. The student may do this by paying fees in full up to one week before the final examinations. The student who takes this approach is required to make a late fee payment of about $8,000.
STUDENTS' LOAN BUREAU
Fifthly, students who cannot afford to pay their fees are encouraged to seek assistance. The university is grateful to the Students' Loan Bureau for the assistance provided to our students. For the Academic Year 2017/18, for example, the SLB provided loans to about 3,176 UTech students (out of a population of about 11,300 students).
We are also grateful to the Government of Jamaica, local private sources and international private sources. For 2017/18, the Government of Jamaica provided assistance to 562 students, local private sources assisted 288 through the institution, and 55 students received international support. In addition, scholarships are available to students; in 2017/18 some 1,157 obtained scholarships.
Sixthly, the university also seeks to provide financial assistance. For 2017/18, the university provided 109 scholarships; I should note that we are presenting 60 additional scholarships to mark the 60th Anniversary of the university (J$100,000 each). In 2017/18 - 331 students took part in the university's Earn and Study Programme, working within the university, and 2,212 students received welfare assistance.
In sum, for 2017/18, approximately 7,779 students (out of about 11,300) at UTech received some form of assistance with their studies through institutional sources. As to financial value, for 2017/18, external and internal scholarships amounted to more than $47 million, student welfare about $23 million and Earn and Study about $24 million.
I should make a few additional points about access. One is that some students at the university who have not paid fees until late in the semester have hitherto not been allowed to gain access to online resources at the university. This policy has been changed by the university's academic board. So, going forward, as long as a student has paid the Enrolment Commitment Fee, the student should not be disadvantaged in the period before she or he pays the full fee.
Our records indicate that, for 2017/18, 595 students who entered the UTech system did not complete their enrolment, and did not therefore take their examinations. We are concerned about this number and regard it as far too high. This is one factor which has caused us to move towards making online material available to all who pay the Enrolment Commitment Fee, even though there are suggestions that this move could affect the university's cash flow.
Finally, I should note that the university is funded primarily by student fees. In a very broad outline, the university receives a subvention from the Government of Jamaica of the order of $2 billion, but its expenses are of the order of $7 billion.
The bulk of the $5 billion required to cover costs comes from student fees. The university has sought to obtain an increase in the GoJ subvention, particularly in light of our desire to promote parity and fairness among tertiary level institutions, but this effort is yet to receive financial support.
Ambassador Stephen Vasciannie is president of the University of Technology, Jamaica, which has been institutionally accredited by the University Council of Jamaica.