SCHOOL FEE HIKE: BLAME IT ON VAT!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Toni Ni­cholas

The Saint Lu­cia Na­tional Stu­dent’s Coun­cil is ral­ly­ing sup­port from the Stu­dents Coun­cil of the Sir Arthur Lewis Com­mu­nity Col­lege over what has been de­scribed as un­fair in­creases in school fees. In a press re­lease is­sued Tues­day Au­gust 25, the Na­tional Stu­dent’s Coun­cil called for ac­count­abil­ity in the SALCC fee in­crease.

On Thurs­day the Com­mon­wealth Stu­dents As­so­ci­a­tion(CSA) re­leased a state­ment in sol­i­dar­ity with the NSC ex­press­ing re­gret and dis­ap­point­ment at the re­cent in­crease in stu­dent tu­ition “cou­pled with the ab­sence of stu­dent con­sul­ta­tion and an un­rea­son­ably short pe­riod of time for pay­ments to be made”. “This tu­ition hike may force many stu­dents who lack fi­nan­cial aid to aban­don their goal of a higher ed­u­ca­tion. We ad­mire Sir Arthur Lewis Com­mu­nity Col­lege (SALCC) for be­ing com­mit­ted to ex­cel­lence, and re­spon­sive to the needs of its stu­dents, and to the chal­lenges that face the St Lu­cian so­ci­ety. It is for this rea­son that the CSA is shocked by the re­cent de­vel­op­ments and de­ci­sions made by the SALCC,” the state­ment read.

It was only re­cently - mere weeks be­fore the com­mence­ment of the new school term at SALCC - news broke that there would be an in­crease in school fees at the ter­tiary learn­ing in­sti­tu­tion. The fees for as­so­ciate de­gree stu­dents (year 2) moved from EC$1,085 last se­mes­ter to EC$1,610 this se­mes­ter, a forty eight per­cent in­crease.

In an HTS News in­ter­view last week, prin­ci­pal of the SALCC Ur­ban Dolor, de­scribed as “re­gret­table” the fact that the fees had to be in­creased. “Let me first of all say that we are very sorry that the school fees are be­ing an­nounced so late and that is partly be­cause we ac­tu­ally went through as many hoops and hur­dles as we could to make sure that the fees were in the first in­stance not in­creased and in the sec­ond in­stance that the in­crease was as low as pos­si­ble,” Dolor said. He went on to blame ris­ing op­er­a­tional cost, a lower gov­ern­ment sub­ven­tion and VAT, for the in­evitable in­crease. “Clearly we would have suf­fered a tremen­dous amount of lost be­cause of VAT,” Dolor claimed.

The Na­tional Stu­dents Coun­cil how­ever has ex­pressed con­cern with the man­ner in which tu­ition fees were in­creased for the aca­demic year 2015/2016. “This re­mains a ma­jor con­cern for the Na­tional Stu­dents’ Coun­cil along with par­ents and stu­dents whom it di­rectly af­fects. The coun­cil is par­tic­u­larly dis­ap­pointed with the in­sen­si­tiv­ity of the col­lege demon­strated through their tar­di­ness in in­form­ing stu­dents of ad­justed fees less than two weeks from reg­is­tra­tion and three weeks prior to the com­mence­ment of the first se­mes­ter for most sec­ond year stu­dents,” the state­ment from the Coun­cil reads.

The NSC also ref­er­enced a com­ment in the media by Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Robert Lewis who seemed non the wiser about the fee in­crease. “There has not been any ap­proval as I know at Sir Arthur,” Lewis told re­porters last week. The NSC view this as “a stun­ning rev­e­la­tion that has in­deed raised a few eye­brows among con­cerned par­ties.” Ac­cord­ing to the Coun­cil, the Ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter’s com­ments seem to sug­gest that the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the col­lege failed to act in ac­cor­dance with the Ed­u­ca­tion Act of 1999 (ar­ti­cle 74, sec­tion 3, sub­sec­tions c and e). It states; “Where a ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tion is in­de­pen­dently es­tab­lished the Min­is­ter may by or­der pro­vide for- (c) the pay­ment of fees; (e) its man­age­ment”

The coun­cil has since re­quested a meet­ing with the board of SALCC to ex­press their con­cerns. “It is rather un­for­tu­nate that as a na­tion pur­port­edly founded on demo­cratic prin­ci­ples, we are still chal­lenged by re­lated is­sues with many of our core in­sti­tu­tions. Our youth needs to feel se­cure know­ing that they have the sup­port of a so­ci­ety built on in­tegrity and a high level of trans­parency. We will no longer feel com­fort­able guess­ing. We want an­swers.” On Wed­nes­day Ajani Le­bourne gen­eral sec­re­tary of the NSC told the STAR that they have the sup­port of the many stu­dents. “It is our belief that the stu­dents have been done an in­jus­tice and many of them feel that way too, based on the feed­back we have re­ceived.” The NSC wants the in­creases put on hold.

Prin­ci­pal of SALCC Ur­ban Dolor: Will he and his Board

meet with stu­dents to re­view fees.

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