The BU household continues our focus on education by reproducing today’s Barbados Advocate editorial – Barbados Underground
It does not come entirely as a surprise to us that the public discourse surrounding the requirement that Barbadian students at the University of the West Indies (UWI) pay twenty percent of the economic cost of tuition fees for their degree programmes still lingers on more than a year after the introduction of this initiative.
After all, there are many Barbadians who still regard taxpayer-funded University education, at least at UWI, as an irrevocable civic entitlement bequeathed to the nation by former Prime Minister and now National Hero, the Right Excellent Errol Barrow, who envisioned it as one of the building blocks that would enable us to move rapidly from a collection of villages into a nation “punching well above its weight”, as we had come to be described at one time.
On the other hand, there are those, perhaps of equal number, who, for several reasons, consider that the requirement for students to pay fees for a UWI education is long overdue and very much in current order.
Among these reasons is what we choose to term the “just deserts” principle that entails the current cohort being required to pay principally because their predecessors wasted a good thing and spent many years, at the taxpayer’s expense, engaged in studies that should have been concluded much earlier. Had these wastrels not been permitted to be so lax in their intellectual pursuits, the state would have had more means today to provide education to a greater number of citizens.
Another is that, in any event, the new financial order does not permit any entitlement so lavish as universal tertiary education free at source for a “scrunting” third world nation, when some major world powers elect not to guarantee this benefit at all, despite their ostensibly greater access to financial resources.
As a corollary to this, there also exists the notion that little more than a sound secondary education is required for democratic citizenship and that tertiary education should be viewed rather as an investment that the individual makes in himself or herself with the expectation that it will return sizeable dividends in future by way of more substantial remuneration in one’s career.
Earlier this week, the debate was further joined by one former educator, Senator Alwin Adams who advanced the thesis, as is reported in the headline story, “Pay the Cost,” published in the Barbados Advocate for Tuesday, December 6. According to the report, in his written contribution to a recently launched publication, “Barbados: Fifty Years of Independence”, Senator Adams posits the view that university students should pay fees, although at the same time he issues the rider that every student who qualifies should be granted admission to the University.
This apparent paradox illustrates the national dilemma perfectly. We are anxious not to disenfranchise the poor bright boy or girl who has always been there in our educational culture; yet we recognize that it is no longer financially feasible or sustainable to continue the phenomenon of state-provided, taxpayer-funded university education for the numbers that now claim entitlement.
The self-evident solution is clearly a financial one. Whether through directed state funding by way of bursaries or scholarships; through tax incentives or through delayed repayment of student loans, a means must be found to ensure that our best brains are not deprived of an exposure that might inure ultimately to the benefit of themselves and the country because of the prohibiting cost of scholarship.
The current governing administration has already made significant headway along this path by creating additional bursaries based on household need. In this context, the major difficulty appears to be simply a lack of awareness of the existence of this recourse by those that might profit most from it.