Students have complained bitterly about scheduled fee increases related to currency exchange rates at the University of the West Indies. Complaints center on the fees being charged in US dollars.
However, the University has hit back with a statement of its own explaining that many of its expenses, for example related to computers, software, and lab materials for medical and nursing courses have to be paid for in US dollars and that it has kept fee hikes to a minimum even as the Jamaican dollar has plunged in value relative to the US dollar.
The Jamaica Observer reported that President of the Mona Law Society, Jhenelle Small, took to social media platform Twitter to express her dissatisfaction with the administration continuing to quote some tuition in US dollars.
“Our fees do not need to be quoted in US dollars. There is no benefit to students as we are already disadvantaged given that most programs quoted in US dollars are non-sponsored and are dependent on the fluctuations of the Jamaican dollar, which has no hopes of coming down,” Small tweeted.
The 21-year-old third-year law student also argued that quoting fees in US dollars is nothing but a strategy for the university to treat students pursuing these programs as cash makers.
“This has been a long-standing issue that many representatives have spoken on without resolution,” said Small, who noted that her education is primarily financed through the Students’ Loan Bureau’s (SLB) Pay as You Study Program, the Mona Law Bursary and contribution from her parents.
In its response, the University of the West Indies made the following points:
“The UWI Mona has taken note of the raging debate concerning our tuition fees and is not insensitive to our students’ realities in this COVID-19 period.
“We have done our utmost to keep our prices low, to the extent that the UWI provides the most affordable option for the majority of programs across the higher education spectrum in Jamaica.”
“No other University in Jamaica has a more accommodating and liberal approach in terms of facilitating students with financial needs.”
“In fact, over the last three academic years, we have given back to our students approximately 2.5 billion JMD in scholarships and bursaries, representing approximately 10 per cent of total billings for tuition.”
“Admittedly, a number of our postgraduate programs are denominated in United States dollars.”
“The UWI faces many US dollar costs in delivering our programs, and the question is how these costs will be met and who will meet those costs. These include but are not limited to library international subscriptions, software licences, ICT hardware, chemicals and specimens.”