Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is willing to listen to alternative suggestions from members of the public about Government???s proposal to make students at the University of the West Indies pay tuition fees from 2014.

Mr. Stuart made the disclosure recently during a media conference when he was questioned on whether Government would change its position on the payment of tuition fees. He said: ???If anybody has a more credible, sustainable, [or] viable solution than the one we have proposed, since this measure does not take effect until academic year 2014/2015, we have enough time to go back to the drawing board. I am open to suggestions… if anybody in Barbados has a solution???this Prime Minister is prepared to sit and listen to it, analyse it and if it is practicable, you can be sure we have a deal.

??????That is the mood of the Cabinet, the mood of the Government and my position. I wish that it did not have to happen. Forty-five years ago when [the Right Excellent] Errol Barrow spoke on this question, it used to cost $2,700 to educate a Barbadian student at Cave Hill. And he was saying then that University costs were rising???and we have to watch the trend??? This is a 45-year old issue and we have postponed and postponed and postponed and crunch time has now come.???

The Prime Minister acknowledged that some people who wanted a university education would not be able to meet the cost. ???And, the Government has taken the position that we will have to make provision for that segment of the population. But, there is a larger number of people in Barbados today who can assist with their children’s education at the university level than there has ever been in this country’s history, and all we are asking is, hold hands with us,??? he stated.

He noted that the decision had to be taken in the context of a fiscal deficit which, if left unchecked, would end up in the vicinity of nine per cent of GDP. ???When we had a nine per cent deficit of GDP in 1981, [the late] Prime Minister Tom Adams had to call the IMF in here… [and] we have decided not to allow it to get to that stage. It was not a decision that was taken because we want to punish anybody. It’s a decision that was taken because the country is under economic pressure as a result of what is happening in the global economy,??? Mr. Stuart contended.

He pointed out that the Cave Hill Campus had expanded significantly over the past 10 years and major additional operating costs had come with it. Stressing that he was not criticising the expansion, the Prime Minister remarked that if Cave Hill is to become an international University, attracting students from other parts of the world, then the necessary infrastructure would have to be put in place.

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