Pres. Weah Declares Free Tuition at UL, Tubman U.

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Pres. Weah said he will ensure that the grants are used properly.

By David S. Menjor and Simeon S. Wiakanty

Students of the University of Liberia (UL) and the Tubman University (TU) in Maryland County have all reasons to smile as President George Weah yesterday declared both public universities in the country tuition-free.

Amid a thunderous applause in the auditorium of the University of Liberia’s Capitol Hill campus President Weah said considering the constraints students at the public universities face each semester, and the need to push the Pro-poor Agenda through capacity and skills development, it is now the time for students attending the institutions to learn without any worry of tuition.

“We will never be successful, as a government, if we do not place more emphasis on the development of our human capital and, as such, we have to invest in quality education,” Weah said.

He said as a visitor to the University of Liberia, he is fully aware of the challenges facing the university and now is the right time for the government to turn its attention to the development of the country’s manpower needs.

“I, President George M. Weah, on behalf of the Liberian people and the government, therefore declare free tuition at the University of Liberia and other public universities for undergraduate programs,” Weah said amid jubilation from the students of the UL.

He said the inability of young people to continue their education is a very serious issue in the country and it is against this backdrop that his government has seen it prudent to invest in order to ensure that young people acquire quality education.

In addition to the two universities, Weah also said all community colleges across the country are also included in the free tuition spree.

“I personally believe in education. Therefore, I feel that the constant drop out of students from the various schools is counterproductive,” he said

He said his government, therefore, believes that the time has come to take bold steps to address the perennial problems in the country.

Although he did not elaborate in detail, Weah said there is a definite link between an educated citizenry and economic growth and that in view of that the government has decided to build its human capital in order to keep a firm economic growth and make the country a better place.

Concerning the hectic moments students have been going through at the University of Liberia to register during each semester, his government recently laid that quagmire to rest by providing the digital means for fast and easy registration of all students as well as administration’s operations.

“Over the years, we are aware that students at the state-run university have suffered by standing in a long queue for registration purpose, which was due to a lack of a proper system to effectively and efficiently manage students’ registration processes. And with the school population up to forty thousand students, it has been a serious concern to us,” he said.

He added that realizing the critical importance of the digitization system, the CDC-led government included in its scope of decisions, a maximum priority and support earlier this month when he  visited the UL Fendell Campus  to dedicate the newly digitized system that is currently providing easy access to the registration process for students as well as a vital internet access for research purposes.

He said he was rising from his office’s seat at the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Friday, October 19, when he heard battle cries and chants from a group of students of the UL who were protesting against alleged attempts by the University’s administration to increase tuition from US$ 4 to US$6 or its equivalent in Liberian dollars. However, he later received information from Norris Tweh, who is Vice President for UL Relations, that there was no increment to the tuition per credit hour.

He encouraged students at the University of Liberia and other public schools to always seek common ground with administrations instead of going into the streets to protest.

“Let me encourage all students that if there is a problem between the UL administration and the student body, it is important to negotiate rather than to vibrate,” he said.

Weah said his government is prepared to allot more funds to education, and it is his hope that the UL will become a proud university among several other universities in the sub-region.

When contacted via mobile phone for the Ministry of Education’s impression on the President’s declaration of free tuition education at the UL and other public institutions of learning, Deputy Minister for Administration at MOE, Latim DaThong, said his office will today respond to the President’s statement.

21 COMMENTS

    • Well, I support this free tuition policy because there is just too much hardship in the country right now. With that said, LU needs to do a better job at providing a quality education. And the school needs to develop their engineering programs such as computer science and other technical fields. The country needs engineers and technicians to rebuild.

      • Phil George,
        There is not a country on the planet where pre-K and elementary students are sitting on the floor,
        With poorly trained teachers that will make college education free. Mr. Weah’s decision will destroy the foundation of education for generations. Was there a feasibility study done by the GOL before this decision was made? I believe Mr. Weah wants to remove the focus off his government regarding the level of theft and corruption that his fellow partisans are engaged in. What next? Will the government provide each student with a bag of rice, a case of fish, a gallon of oil and monthly stipends?

  1. You get what you paid for!!!!

    There we go again! Liberian college students are jubilating over President Weah quick-fix, short-sighted, ill-advised, political solution to a complicated national systemic educational problem. Free public college education will not fix the educational mess in Liberia…..free college education only gives more students the feeling of entitlement to a free college education…..without taking into consideration the cost and merits of getting a college education.

    Do many students in Liberia know that Liberia has one of the cheapest costs (U.S. $4) per credit hour in Africa when it comes to obtaining a two year or four year college degree from public colleges and universities?

    Did the President take into consideration all the modalities involved in running these institutions of higher learning like the various public universities and junior colleges in Liberia? The government can barely allocate enough money in its budget to upkeep these various public colleges and universities in Liberia functioning properly, let alone, the President is making a drastic decision to make public colleges and universities tuition free.

    These public universities and colleges have to incur operating expenses like salaries, benefits, facilities maintenance, security, plant and equipment, updated teaching equipment, high tech teaching labs, on campus clinic, athletic departments, university buses and vehicles etc. in order to make public universities and college environments conductive for learning and functioning to a higher standard. Where will the money come from to operate these universities and colleges properly if the government makes them tuition free without increasing financial allotment to these institutions?

    There is nothing free in government!! All money government generate belongs to the people of Liberia. Government makes money through taxation and fees. Therefore, if government is going to make college and universities tuition free, it should also demand something from the students or college free-education recipients as compensation: like all public college and university graduates performed one year of National Service in their respective majors to the country.

    An alternative to free public college education, which Liberia’s meager budget of US $526.6 million is too small to sustain, is to reduce the cost of Public College tuition: this makes it affordable for all Liberians to attend on the basis of a competitive entrance system.

    Secondly, will foreign students who are currently living, attending, or planning to come to Liberia for college be excluded from this tuition free public college policy? It is funded by Liberian tax dollars.

    There are many complicated issues in Liberia when it comes to achieving quality education: many public colleges and universities are poorly equipped to handle the demand of providing quality education let alone making public colleges tuition free without increasing the budget for higher education in Liberia. This will
    leave students ill-prepared for the demanding job market.

    There are too many systemic problems in Liberia that are deeply affecting the educational system in Liberia: some of these problems are political, legal, corruption, compounded by a weak economic environment.
    Also, our public colleges and universities are underfunded because government officials are receiving excessive salaries from Liberia’s meager budget, thus making these public institutions of higher learning unable to attract qualified administrators and educators.

    Mr. President, it is a noble cost for Liberia to have a literate functioning society. However, it should not be done by lowering the standard of Liberia’s educational system through free tuition. Instead, it should be done by upgrading our university system……by asking congress to increase funding to all public institutions of learning in Liberia….and making college education affordable for all Liberians by lowering the cost of all public tuition.

    Liberia’s educational problem is more complicated than a quick-fix, ill-advised, political gimmick: tuition free college education package.

    Quality education is not cheap….Mr. President.

    • Alpha Corneh, if you have nothing to say, you just sit down and keep quiet! Your reasoning that learning without any worry of tuition at majority of the main universities and colleges in a country, which are indeed public universities, MEANS “lowering the standard of Liberia’s educational system” IS SILLY, FOOLISH, AND PSYCHOPATHIC!!! IMAGINE! MY GOD! YOU ARE SICK AND DANGEROUS!

      • Really? Did you really sit back and analyze what Mr. Alpha Conneh said before throwing insults at him? My brother, we understand that there are dire financial and economic hardships in Liberia at the moment, especially with our youth. But making all Public institutions of learning in Liberia free is just a quick fix, and not sustainable, and I am sure you know that.

        No one is saying that the policy is not good at all. It has certain benefits but once again, is it sustainable? Did the president in his prouncement mentioned a budgetary increase for education or post-secondary education in Liberia? Maybe, there would be details work out later by the administration, but so far, the whole message was lost in translation, in an effort to satisfy the students and score some quick political points.

        To me, a very good policy prouncement would have been the President saying, Students, we understand your financial plight at the moment, and my government would work with the National Legislature, all public higher institutions of learning, all stakeholders in the Education system, including our development partners for the purpose of reducing the cost of post-secondary education in Liberia at the undergraduate level. But in the mean-time, this is what our government, in regards to our Pro-Poor agenda intends to do immediately…

        1. Reduce tuition per-credit from $4.00 to $2.00 for this year at the University of Liberia, and consult with other public institutions to do the same immediately.
        2. Increase post-secondary funding to all public institutions of learning through budgetary allotment for lost revenue for the purpose of daily operations and equipment immediately.
        3. Propose a funding policy that would make education at all public institutions at the post-secondary level free for all undergraduate students within the next academic year
        4. Propose mandatory and compulsory national service for one year for all students who graduate from public institutions at the undergraduate level in their various fields of studies within the next academic year
        5. My fellow citizens, we envision all of the above policy proposals to come into effect from the 2019-2020 academic year.

        I mean, let’s be honest with ourselves here my brother………even in wealthy nations like the West, nothing is free without a cost to it now or later. I did my education in Canada, a wealthy nation where I still paid fees as a Canadian student…..though not much……the government paid almost 75% of fees for students, but students still pay fees for operational costs.

        Even in richer neighbours like Ghana and Nigeria, post-secondary education at public institutions are not 100% free. And there are National Service programs in place.

        My brother, all I am saying is, let’s analyze the policy from an economic and point of view, then throwing insults from someone’s point of view. Have a great day.

  2. Ha ha ha….”Pres. Weah Declares Free Tuition at UL, Tubman U”. Oh really?? But anyone who understand economics know that there’s a NO such thing as a free lunch (tuition). In other words, someone has to pay for President Weah’s “free tuition” scheme…..Hey Mr. President, can you tell us how much it is going to cost and who’s going to pay for it???

    • Martin – I usually agree with you but I beg to differ on this policy. Liberian college kids are mostly from dirt poor families, especially those that attend public colleges. So it makes good policy for the government to provide free education. Even some states (Rhode Island, New York) here in wealthy America are providing tuition free community college education for students. When you have a country as poor as Liberia, educating as many young people as possible is good public policy. Taxpayers will have to foot the bill and why not. This is a sound policy to help the poor no doubt. President Weah will have to find the money in the budget. Four US dollar per credit sounds like peanuts to you and me but when you’re so poor, $4 is a lot of money plus other costs such as books, transportation, healthcare, fees, etc.

  3. We must first find out the total appropriated, allocated, and encumbered in 2016-2017 tuition for all Liberian Government schools in reference. That amount should have been refunded and replenished in Liberian’s currency by, only, under the last administration to treasury in the CBL vault already. This present administration’s 2017-2018 has allocated 9 if not 10 months to date to liquidate Liberian Dollars printing prior to the sitting of the January 2018 President and nation’s inauguration. How much of the 10 months collected for tuition have been expended by public schools accounts? For what tuition expenditures were they expended? Does any of the 10 months have any projections on the future after free education offer? Did the Last administration put that replenished amount in coffer before leaving?
    The public educational formula maybe to help find some of our Liberian money: 2016-2017B 2017-2018B / 10M + 2018E. If X = length before investigation. B= Liberian Billions; E= encumbered. Find X after investigation. Tell Liberians. Not me.
    Gone to silence.

  4. Laudable move. I hope we can find a way to fund it. Its a good thing but its a big deal to replace the fees paid by thousands of students through government funding. It will be interesting to know what the total cost is. President Weah has a big heart and a big vision for Liberia. Let’s look at a few things he has said: 1. Highway to open up the country, 2. Building a new city on the Bali Island 3. Free Education at government universities at undergraduate level. These are projects that would greatly impact Liberia’s development if they can be carried through. They are possible but very difficult initiatives. It is good for the President to dream Big, but he needs creative people to achieve those dreams. We can only hope that element is well at work to make the President’s Vision a reality. The Free Education pronouncement is not like the highway or Bali island. People will demand execution like yesterday. Lets hope the money is there or else the “shit will hit the Fan”, and if that happens, I don’t want to be near. Mr. President, make them do the free college funding. This will be the best manifestation of the Pro-Poor Policy. Good luck and Thank You for being that bold.

  5. I will like to many thanks and appreciations to President Weah for giving poor children of Liberia free education at the higher institution of learning. It will make more people to be educated and make a sound judgement for themselves. I will give an example of giving citizens free education. Like look at Federal republic of Nigeria today from declaration of free education in the 70s , made Nigeria to have more educated people in Africa and consequently every Nigerian can decide or make a sound decision for herself or himself because brain is occupied with knowledge.
    I am a student of Entomology at Masters degree level in Njala University in republic of Sierra Leone and a Liberian

    • Now President Weah’s pro-poor agenda is making sense. These are the kinds of policies that will reduce poverty in the country over time. Good job Mr. President.

  6. I support the tuition-free education scheme 100% and hope the President will also provide free books and free lunches to the students of our schools and universities. No joke; this would be a great investment for a poor country that lately has been badly managed and heavily plundered. It would even be nice to provide students K through college with free medical care.

    People say, how will the government pay for all this? Well, let’s start with a radical reduction in the number of people on the government’s payroll doing nothing and an equally drastic cut in the very high salaries and allowances (fringe benefits) government officials are paid – also for doing nothing. There are numerous other rational (non-knee jerk) ways of raising money for development.

    The wheel was invented long years ago; so instead of always waiting for a new crisis to command our attention, let our national planners take a comprehensive sector-by-sector view of the situation and propose solutions based on “best practices” worldwide.

    For example, what are our neighbors doing to efficiently manage their local currencies and foreign exchanges that we could not do as well? Sirleaf had twelve long years to get it done right – and failed! Today we hear so much about “lost and found” containers with billions of dollars. The new sheriff must quickly get an orderly grip on things before the kids start demanding free uniforms with shoes, hats – and book bags too.

  7. Good idea. But only those students in good academic standing should be recipients. At least each student must have a GPA of 2.5 every academic semester. We do not want government to waste money on students showing poor academic standing. No professor should accept bribes to pass a student.

  8. Servants, natives of Government Officials in the past, who were forced to or willing to accept conditions of settlers names or feudal demands were the ones who benefited today some of whom are now praising their own with deception. They were educated on Government expense and have up to dated destroyed Government revenues using Liberian public funds from loans and grants to pay their educational commitments in the United States and other nations of the earth. Some are forced to work for us in Liberia and the United States, because they have not yet met their educational obligations, even though they may or may not have acquired excellence in academic performance as a basis to these local and foreign scholarships. This is the reason why some parents prefer to struggle to earn cash payments to pay for private education to worth a Liberian cost and value in human resources. The free Liberian public education only worth a been to public institutions if it generates adequately the needed human resources and infrastructural development to the Liberian nation for all. If not, some will praise because they want to be. Some will praise with sincerity but cannot be. Some regardless will be. Yet free as free can be only if one is free to the rich is more than free, while to the poor, free must need be. Knowledge only benefits its value. If free, it must be free for all who need free education. Chat with your type. Do not answer me. Cannot help. Tell the Liberian public or the media your educational problems.
    In silent meditation. Do not disturb.

  9. Liberia has its illiteracy rate at approximately 80%.This is not good for a nation that wants to build human and economic development. Free education at the public Universities in the country is a good idea, but how is it going to be paid for when the nation is struggling economically. I suggest reduced tuition for now and suggest free education at primary and secondary (kindergarten – 12th grade) levels for public school throughout the country which will improve literacy. Families find it difficult to send their kids to school due to poverty .The government Must begin from educating its citizen from the ground up. We need to build a solid foundation in education by making sure every child acquire a high school education first, no child left behind policy, then we can consider free education for undergraduate programs at the public Universities .

  10. It was with great passion I took my time to read through the contribution of each person that reacted to this article. I am perplexed from what I read. What do we, as Liberians, want for ourselves now and in the future? Do we just want to sit by and see things go down the drain and become objects of mockery everywhere we go? Or do we want to set a foundation from whence the pillars of sustainable development can be laid?

    I saw a theoretical economic formula from one contributor trying to prove how economically sound he is. But brother, get down to Liberia and see the reality. Try to apply your formula and wait for results.
    If it could work, Ellen would have been hailed by all, in and out of Liberia because she is indisputably a sound economist.
    I saw comments of insults and denigrations, this is not a developmental catalyst.

    However, this is my take on the subject. For me, the initiative of providing free education for the suffering children of Liberia is praiseworthy. Liberia is an independent country since 1847, more than 100 years before the independence of nearly all of black Africa. But just take a look at our neighbors around us. Nearly all of them have better infrastructural development, some arguably comparable to Europe, than Liberia. Why are we behind and they are ahead? Simply because they took the resolution to educate each meriting citizen at a free cost, enabling him or her to repay in the future through the education gained. The repayment may not forcibly be through cash payment but through the contribution of such person at the local community level, in government, in policy making, through business, etc.
    Your Excellency George M. Weah, I support your drive for free education in Liberia. But beware of the constraints on public finances.
    What quality of free education are you going to provide? One that will not serve the economic development of Liberia and that will bring about chaos and disorder like what we are witnessing nowadays or a quality one which can only be obtained from educated elites?
    If you favor the latter, please upgrade salary skills to enable bright minds to enter the country to dispense quality education to poor Liberians.
    Upgrade salary scales to enable professors in the country to value their work in order to curtail mediocrity and large-scale cheating.
    Equip our university and provide resources for students and professors alike.
    Improve the working environment and the living conditions of our professors. Value merit and celebrate it, or else you will be preaching in the desert.
    Can these be done through free education? I believe YES. Subsidize the university and other public institutions for Liberians. Free education for Liberians, not foreigners. I am raising this point because someone asked the question.
    I obtained my education in a country with free education, but not for foreigners.
    It will cost a pretty sum to achieve this goal, looking at the current economic status of Liberia. That’s why it is paramount to provide a good investment climate. Make Liberia an investment-friendly country to augment government revenue.
    Liberia does not need “free destabilizers”, we need sound free education. Well, I’m not in your administration but I hope you have allotted the resources for the announcement you have made.
    I support QUALITY free education for all Liberians!

  11. Mr. President:
    You need to provide some clarity as to how you arrived at this decision. What are the financial implications of this decision and what other priorities would be sacrificed in the process?
    Did you conduct a study or form a task force that provided you with all the information, implications, factors and basis you would need to make such a major decision?

    The quality of education at the University of Liberia has fallen overtime because of the lack of funding to attract the best and brightest teachers, inconsistent provision of educational supplies and resources, inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, and low morale of the teachers and administrative staff.

    We would have celebrated your decision had you taken incremental steps to address those critical issues as mentioned supra leading up to this major decision.

    Unless you are able to provide a comprehensive step by step guide as to how you arrived at this decision and what the consequences would be short and long term, we would consider this decision as purely political and not judicious.

  12. Below is a comment I posted on the headline, “President Free Tuition Laudable but…!” and I though it worth posting here as it brings my thoughts about the decision, implications, and support for its continuation.

    ‘I laud the Government’s efforts in providing for a tuition free college education in all public universities in the nation. While it thus provide immense benefit to the current crops of students and may potentially provide for future crops of students at these universities, the fact that the initiative is not policy driven may create a bottleneck and legal issue. First, because there was no analysis conducted to ascertain how the government would fund the President’s pronouncement means that, and to the President’s credit, the appropriate Agencies of government must quickly review the current budgetary allocations and reprioritize and drawdown on prior amounts already allocated for other programs in the 2018/2019 Fiscal Year budgets to accommodate the President’s urgent prioritized initiative of free public college tuition.

    The legal issue that may arise, and it doesn’t have to if handled properly, is that if the initiative and beneficiary only ends up being the current crop of students for the 2018/2019 school years. That would amount to the Government using tax monies to benefit a select group of students based on their luck of being enrolled in college for the two years, but students with similar economic hardship that subsequently follow finding themselves not equally receiving the government’s support. While it would be difficult to legally prevail over the government on a charge of intentional bias, it could lead to chaos. My solution to this dilemma is a retroactive adjustment in allocations made in the current budget prior to the President’s announcement and fast pace a legislative enactment to make it law, as one commenter suggested. What this does, is compel the governments now and in the future to have to include this program in all budgetary discussions and allocations. It would also allow Public Institutions to take the government to court if the government fail to make appropriate allocation in the yearly budget for such program.

    My other point I suggest is the Pre-K to High School level education received in the country. I am not versed in the educational structure of Liberia having spent most of my life away, in light of the many changes that have taken place in the country, but I believed that there is free tuitions for public schools from Pre-K to some level short of high school. I stand corrected if someone has an accurate information. Whatever the case may be, it’s proven that a strong early education foundation is the basis for successful secondary and post secondary education that bring greater utilities to both the students and society as a whole. So, investments in early childhood education in written and spoken english, math, the sciences will form a competitive pool of candidates who would be able to compete for entrance at any major universities in the country and the most select universities around the world. I have had the privilege of volunteering at lecturing at the Pre-K and High School level as part of my employer’s effort in preparing students for the corporate environment and I have seen the benefit of the types of early educations that have enable students to enter some of the most selective ivy leagues and private and public universities in the United States.

    In conclusion, I believe, whatever the cost of the President’s initiative is and the few I have suggested here, the benefit outweigh the opportunity cost of not doing anything to sustain this initiative and broadening it to all Public Schools.’

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