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Payment plan eases pressure

Sunday, August 20, 2017
Hope for UWI students hit by GATE cuts
Prof Brian Copeland

The University of the West Indies’ (UWI) St Augustine campus has instituted a payment plan just in time to help students deal with the financial difficulties they may face as a result of recent changes to the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses Programme (GATE).

The Student Payment Plan (SPP) will be available to any Trinidad and Tobago national doing undergraduate or post-graduate programmes at the St Augustine campus, as well as any national of another contributing territory who is not on a scholarship, the Sunday Guardian has been told.

From this month, an income-means test was introduced to determine the eligibility of students for the GATE programme.

Principal of the UWI St Augustine campus Professor Brian Copeland yesterday said while the SPP was not a direct response to GATE, it was aimed at making education more accessible for students.

“The newly-introduced Student Payment Plan is open to all UWI students, not only local students. This plan has been under consideration for a while. It is an already established practice on the other campuses,” Copeland told the Sunday Guardian.

“The Student Payment Plan is not a direct response to GATE changes but part of an overall student retention strategy that is in full alignment with the ‘Access’ mandate of our new strategic plan. Of note is the fact that the Student Guild has also been advocating for flexibility in payment options, and in this regard have referenced in particular the difficulty experienced by regional students in meeting their tuition and other commitments.”

The UWI has embarked on a five-year plan which sets access, alignment and agility as its top-level strategic goals.

Student Guild PRO Nikoli Edwards said yesterday that while they were pleased at the introduction of the SPP, there needs to be more dialogue on key issues affecting students.

“Recent developments with the GATE programme have forced tertiary institutions to be creative and even change their existing policies in order to ensure their numbers do not dwindle. The move by The UWI to adopt a payment plan for tuition has been one that the Guild of Students has been ardently supportive of for years and we are pleased to see our hard work pay off,” Edwards stated.

“However, these are only plasters to a chronic disease that continues to be unaddressed. Students must be brought back to the table to discuss the decisions being taken by the Ministry of Education and the Government as a whole when it comes to financing students’ access to tertiary education.”

Edwards also called for more discussion on GATE.

“While we continue to agree that changes need to be made, as students and right-thinking citizens with the overall development of the country in mind, we believe that the decisions being taken are not in the best interest of those affected and those who will come after,” he said.

The SPP has been introduced just in time for registration for semester 1 of the academic year 2017/2018, which is scheduled to start tomorrow. Applications for the SPP must be made at the campus Bursary.

According to the SPP, once a student has been accepted for the first semester they must make a down payment on their registration fees by the last working day of August. A second instalment must be made by the last working day of September, with a final instalment being made by the last working day of October.

The first semester of the upcoming academic year is scheduled to end on December 22.

The SPP will also take into account the second semester, which is carded to being on January 21, 2018.

Successful applicants will have to pay their instalments on the last working days of January, February and March. The second semester is scheduled to end May 18, 2018.

The SPP can also be utilised for Summer School, which is carded to start on May 27, 2018. Summer School instalments must be paid on the last working days of May and June. Summer school ends on July 20, 2018.

The GATE programme has been operational since January 2004, with expenditure over the past 12 years being $6.46 billion.

For this upcoming academic year, an income-only means test has been introduced to determine eligibility for the GATE programme. That testing started this month.

For households with an income of $10,000 a month or less, 100 per cent funding will be available. If a household has an income of above $10,000 a month but less than $30,000 ,then 75 per cent funding will be available via GATE. For households with an income over $30,000 only 50 per cent funding will be available.

For 2015 and 2014, UWI St Augustine received the highest payment from GATE, amounting to $178.5 million and $133 million respectively.

Education Minister Anthony Garcia has said the changes to GATE have been introduced to ensure those who are really in need of funding would receive the maximum amount. He said appropriate checks and balances have been put in place to ensure people do not “take advantage” of Government’s generosity, but appealed to applicants to be honest when providing financial information, as investigation officers will be despatched to check claims.


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