Hundreds of students of the University of Liberia on Tuesday staged a rally on Capitol Hill to petition the National Legislature to prevail on the UL administration not to increase their tuition fees.
The UL administration recently announced through its Board of Trustees the increment of credit hour fees for the under graduate program from L$175 to US$4 and for the graduate program from US$55 to US$75.
The students consider the increments to be exorbitant and an attempt by the administration to disallow underprivileged students their basic constitutional right to learn.
The petition presented by the president of the UL Student Union (ULSU), Mr. Daniel Woart said, “ULSU sees this astronomical increment in tuition highly inconceivable to accept given the current devastating state of the national economy over the past four fiscal periods. This imposition, in our opinion, is a concoction aimed at depriving thousands of underprivileged students the chance to continue their academic sojourn at the University of Liberia.”
The aggrieved students called on the National Legislature to consider the constitutional responsibilities and other obligations related to public education stated in Article 6 of the Liberian constitution, Article 26 of the declaration of human rights and Article 1, sections A, B, C and D of the Charter of the University of Liberia and instead increase the budget of the University to US$29m during fiscal budgetary allotment period.
The UL administration, on announcing the increments, cited the major financial constraint it faces as a factor responsible for the poor quality of services and in some cases the unavailability of some services at the University.
If the tuition increments take effect, a sum of US$ 1.3m will be raised and this will get the University’s budget up to US$ 16.3m but still leave a deficit of US$ 12.7m of the US$29m needed to run Liberia’s premier government owned institution of higher learning.
Presently the University is run on a US$15.1m budget, which if raised to at least US$29m will help to alleviate the many shortcomings listed by the students in their petition.
The students, in their three page petition read by their interim leadership (ULSIL) cited the lack of internet connectivity, poor infrastructure, inadequately equipped laboratories, and unaffordable transportation to and from the campuses, among the deficiencies at the university which do not warrant the tuition hike.
Another complaint put forward by the students is the lack of internship opportunities for students graduating from the state run University. Internship is “one of the elements critical to career development and man power success stories in the job market”, the students said. The lack of it causes experience disparities which in turn deny most of the graduates of the University good opportunities in the job market.
“In most cases,” the petition stated that the employers “call on the job seekers to have a good number of years of experience before being hired. Where does a student who has benefited from no internship program at the level of the University of Liberia get five or more years of experience if he or she is to get the job he or she seeks?” they wondered.
Receiving the petition Speaker Alex Tyler assured the students that he would present the petition to plenary for their timely consideration of their request.
The student delegation included its vice president K. Moses James, secretary Jerome D. Dangbuah and Dickson G. Goffa, financial secretary.