More than 800 students pursuing higher education at the Cuttington University campus in Suakoko District, Bong County, may not go to school this semester due to new financial measures instituted by the school’s interim administration.
The administration of the university is currently enforcing a policy of 25 percent increment in non-tuition fees and at the same time requesting all scholarship donors to clear arrears owed the university before new arrangements are made to allow the scholarship beneficiaries into classes.
The new financial policy stated that all scholarship donors are to make 60 percent payment during registration, while 75 percent tuition payments for non-scholarship students are required also during registration.
According to CU Director of Public Relations, Rev. Prince V. Simpson, the decision to step up the fees was due to the huge financial liabilities experienced by the school in the past years.
Rev. Simpson told this reporter, who is himself a student of CU, that “donors owe the school more than US$1 million.”
“We need to attract qualified teachers with promising salaries, improve the internet services as well as other facilities on the campus; but how do we do that in the absence of money,” Rev. Simpson rhetorically asked.
He maintained that the exercise is not meant to humiliate the students, neither to antagonize nor discredit the efforts of scholarship donors, but to meet with several outstanding financial obligations.
He pointed out that the exercise affects students who are mainly on scholarships from different entities including government ministries and agencies, as well as private institutions and individuals.
Lauding the scholarship donors for the opportunities given their beneficiaries to learn at Cuttington, Rev. Simpson explained that the sole intent of the exercise is to remind the scholarship donors about their respective commitments to pay whatever they owe CU, in an opportune manner, to enable the university deliver the quality of education the scholarship donors are paying for on behalf of the students.
“The institution principally depends on these funds to function without which it would become strangulated,” Rev. Simpson emphasized.
He reiterated that since the university was established in 1889 in Harper Maryland County and later moved to Suakoko, Bong County where the government provided 1,500 acres of land for its relocation, 80 percent of its subsidy in the past came from government.
He maintained that the school right now heavily depends on students’ tuition for its upkeep due to the financial fatigue from the Episcopal Church and other donors.
Meanwhile, Rev. Simpson has called on the government as well as Bong Legislative Caucus to increase the financial support to CU from US$550,000 to US$1.5 million, which would help the institution to meet up with some of its imperative needs. From 2009 up to 2013, the Government of Liberia subsidized CU with US$1.1 million until it was cut down to US$ 550,000 in 2014 as the result of Ebola outbreak in the country.
For some of the students and their parents, they told the Daily Observer on Monday in Gbarnga that the new policy was hasty with the intent to deprive hundreds of students in their quest for higher education.
They said while it is true that CU is a private faith-based institution, it is also important for such policy to have been appropriately communicated with parents and scholarship donors at least for two semesters prior to its implementation.
The students and parents said while they were engaging lawmakers and other stakeholders to ensure increment in the university’s subsidy, it is saddening that the administration will take such measure in the face of the current economic hardship in the country.
They are meanwhile appealing to the university Board of Trustees to reconsider its decision.