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SALCC FEES HIKE UNDER FIRE

Students Council To Meet Board of Directors Tomorrow.

Students at the SALCC
Students at the SALCC

THE Commonwealth Student Association (CSA) is calling on the Government of Saint Lucia to halt a proposal to increase tuition fees at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC), two days before the Saint Lucia National Students’ Council meets with the College’s Board of Directors to discuss the proposed increases.

The CSA in a press release yesterday noted that while it continues to laud the SALCC for being the vanguard of academic mobility in St. Lucia and wishes the institution even more success and growth in the near future, the fee increase is “grossly unfair,” as it puts students in a very precarious position.

“The CSA is therefore pleading with the SALCC to give a little bit more unstinting generosity in their mode of operation as regards to the hike of tuition fees at the institution. Applicants to SALCC in St. Lucia are forced to dig a little deeper in their pockets merely being informed less than two weeks ahead of the registration for the coming semester. This we see as grossly unfair as it puts students in a very precarious position,” the CSA statement noted.

The local Student Council and the College’s Board of Directors will meet tomorrow to discuss the increases in tuition fees.

Ajani Lebourne, the local body’s general secretary, said that the opportunity will also be taken to outline his Council’s concerns over the hike in tuition fees.

Tomorrow’s meeting between the two bodies is as a result of a request submitted by the Council to the College to meet to discuss the proposed increases.

The College has confirmed that the commencement of the 2015/2016 academic year would see an increase in tuition fees. However the Council had taken an exception to this by expressing concerns over the manner in which the fees were raised and a comment by Education Minister Robert Lewis that an approval for the increase had not been approved to his knowledge.

“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 resignation and three weeks prior to the commencement of the first semester for most second year students. This is a clear indication that there is very little value placed on the input of our students when it pertains to such critical decisions,” the Council stated in a press release earlier this week.

It further stated that it is curious about a comment made by Lewis last week in a television interview that “there has not been any approval for cost as I know at Sir Arthur.”

“This stunning revelation has indeed raised a few eyebrows among concerned parties. The Minister’s pronouncements 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) where it states, “where a tertiary institution is independently established the Minister may by order provide for the payment of fees and its management,” noted the Council.

According to the Council it is rather unfortunate that a nation purportedly founded on democratic principles is still challenged by related issues with many of its core institutions.

Dr. Lewis
Dr. Lewis

“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 because we want answers,” the Council stated.

The CSA has since noted its regret and disappointment at the recent increase in the fees 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’s 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 Association noted in a press release yesterday.

According to the CSA it is cognizant that the cost of quality education is indeed high, as supported in an interview with the Minister of Education of St. Lucia, Dr. Lewis. However it said a move, as such by the SALCC without consultation with the necessary stakeholders seems “highly presumptive”.

“The CSA is suggesting to the institution and the government of St. Lucia to forestall this increase at least for the first semester of the academic year, to provide students with financial viable options to source the funds and also to create meaningful payment plans for students to manage this added burden. We also would like to encourage the Government of St. Lucia to offer meaningful guidance to the issue and assist the institution in any way possible in order to ease the burden on students who look towards furthering their education.

The increases in tuition fees are not across the board. According to the Council students pursuing the Associated Degree programmes and those at the A Level and Agriculture divisions are the ones who will have to pay an increase in fees by about 48 percent.

Micah George is an established name in the journalism landscape in St. Lucia. He started his journalism tutelage under the critical eye of the Star Newspaper Publisher and well known journalist, Rick Wayne, as a freelancer. A few months later he moved to the Voice Newspaper under the guidance of the paper’s recognized editor, Guy Ellis in 1988.

Since then he has remained with the Voice Newspaper, progressing from a cub reporter covering court cases and the police to a senior journalist with a focus on parliamentary issues, government and politics. Read full bio...

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