BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 7, 2019– In a press release issued today, Thursday, the Opposition People’s United Party called on Prime Minister Dean Barrow to write off the unpaid tuition of an estimated 100 University of Belize students who have fallen into arrears in their tuition payments.
The press release, captioned, “We need a write off, Mr. P.M.,” opens by declaring, “The People’s United Party registers its extreme dismay at the news that the national university, the Government- subsidized University of Belize (UB), is threatening to kick out over 100 students who are unable to meet their financial obligations on time.”
“The Government, and the Minister of Education, continues to trumpet the critical importance of education, yet here they are prepared to remove access to education from these students in a matter of days. We note that despite widespread and prolonged public outcry, the Barrow administration forgave a loan debt of $40,000 to Joshua Perdomo, the son of one of their own privileged colleagues,” the release added.
The release continued saying, “It was only public humiliation which prompted the Perdomo family to allegedly make payment. But for the Government administration, the write-off was a done deal. We note also, that were it not for the public outcry, the Barrow administration would no doubt have continued to pay over $200,000 annually to the daughter of Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington, who asked late last year that this courtesy be extended to her while on extended study leave. “
“This Barrow Administration has neglected UB by keeping the subvention frozen while enrollment has doubled, causing students to take on a greater share of the cost,” the release said.
In a statement to the media today, University of Belize president, Clement Sankat, said that when the university put the notice on the notice board, the students did not pay attention, and that no arrangement was made by them to pay their outstanding tuition. The university has now resorted to electronic posting of the names of students who are in arrears.
Former chairman of the board of the University of Belize, Dr. Louis Zabaneh, said in a Facebook post that “UB publicly shames over 100 students for outstanding arrears: is this appropriate?”
Dr. Zabaneh said that the government subvention increased from $7 million in 2005 to $10 million in 2007, when there were 2,500 students. That is about $4,000 per student..
He said that the subvention was increased this year to $11 million, with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 students.
“That is a drop to $2,200 per student, meaning that students have had to take on more and more of the cost of their education. Note that when GOB provides a subvention to UB, students still pay tuition and fees to make up the overall budget cost of over $30 million per year at UB. With this stated, it is my view that firstly, students are bearing a higher burden than before and the GOB needs to at least keep up with previous levels of assistance; and secondly, that UB needs to be much more empathetic in dealing with student arrears, and instead of shaming students, they should publicly put the GOB to task. Quality higher education is an essential and critical factor for the achievement of sustainable human development and national prosperity,” Dr. Zabaneh said.