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.