Principal: Only well-to-do may soon be able to afford tuition
A CRISIS may well be looming in Barbados with only the children of the well-to-do being able to access higher education.
This stark warning came yesterday from principal of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Professor Eudine Barriteau, while addressing a scholarship presentation by the Optimist International club to student Akilah Jordan-watson.
“As you know, the challenge of funding higher education is becoming quite acute and, in essence, a crisis may well be looming. We have taken higher education for granted,” she said.
Enrolment levels have dropped at Cave Hill ever since Government’s decision to end taxpayer funding of UWI tuition fees in 2014, going from 8 711 students in 2013 to 4 203 for the current academic year.
The principal said she was worried that if the trend continued, higher education would be only for the elite.
“We know in Barbados the economy is tight – parents often make sacrifices and it is a choice now whether it is one child who can go [to university] or if it is two, who can go or whether none can go,” she said.
Pointing to her own example, Barriteau said she owed much of her success to being able to earn her first degree at Cave Hill. She noted that if she had had to pay at that time, her mother would have been unable to afford it.
In light of the situation, she called on the public to offer more scholarships to UWI students, urging private and public sector entities, non-governmental organisations, individuals in leadership positions and UWI alumni to play their part.
Barriteau added that the household income threshold for the higher education grant which Government gave to students should be higher than the current $25 000 or less per year. Given the high cost of living in Barbados, she said efforts were being made to have the threshold lifted to $35 000.
She said Cave Hill was doing what it could to help students through grants and scholarships, but was hampered by its straitened financial circumstances. The professor said the $200 million debt which Government owed to UWI was almost strangling the institution, negatively impacting its ability to expand and meet growing demand.
Barriteau thanked the Optimists for providing scholarships as the campus could not do it alone.
Scholarship winner Jordan-watson was also grateful. “It has been very helpful for me and my family; it has inspired me to push on for my degree and to further my education thereafter.”
While noting that her parents were financing her studies, she said she hoped more students would be inspired to take up scholarship opportunities to help them further their studies.
The aspiring biochemist and former student of The People’s Cathedral Primary School and Harrison College is in the first year of a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry with microbiology.
Jordan-watson wrote the winning essay at the local and district level of the Optimists International Essay Competition, on the topic Lead By Example: Reality Or Fiction. ( LK)