Scores of College of The Bahamas (COB) students yesterday marched from COB's Oakes Field campus to the Ministry of Education in protest of a proposed increase in tuition made by senior administration in the face of impending budget cuts to the institution. Students chanted as they marched in the morning to meet with Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald. Many said they would not be able to remain in college if the increase is granted. "I mean if this happens I would literally have to drop out because my folks aren't getting paid much, I'm not getting paid much," said Chairo McPhee, a freshman.
"My sister's in a private school, and my brother has medical issues. "I would just have to leave and I don't know what I would do after that because everything that I plan to do is really banking on me being in COB right now." The government has asked its various agencies to cut their budgets by 25 percent for the 2014/15 fiscal year and asked that 10 percent be cut right away. Senior administrators at COB last week recommended to the College Council an increase in tuition of $25 per credit, per year for the next two years to offset any reduction in government subvention.
They also recommended a hiring freeze and a halt on new programs. COB President Dr. Betsy Vogel Boze said the proposal was merely a first draft. "We do not, and I repeat, we do not want the $25 increase," said Camelin Pamerox, a junior at COB. "So if the members of COB's board could find another resort that would be wonderful. "I read that they said it would be a last resort but more than likely they're going to do it, so that's why we're protesting against it. "We don't want it; think about the average person and the students that are paying double fees.
"I mean it's bad enough that we're struggling to make ends meet to pay our school fees. We don't need another $25. We have to find books; we don't need that." The government provided around half of COB's $49 million budget this fiscal year. Only Cabinet can approve an increase in COB's tuition. One student, who is also a single mother, said if there is an increase, she would have to leave COB and New Providence altogether.
"I am studying at the Continuing Education and Extension Services (CEES) and if they are going to give that $25 increase, that would knock me out of the picture," said Stephanie Rolle, a student from Bimini. "I would have to go back to my island. I came here seeking an education. I was also a single parent and the department of continuing education helped single parents come back and try to get an education." No increase After his meeting with students, Fitzgerald said he made it clear to them that education is a priority for the Christie administration.
"Unfortunately, I must say they did not see the actual letter that came from the Ministry of Finance until yesterday (Tuesday)," he said. "Once they had a view of that letter and the request from the College Council, I think they were a lot clearer as to what the position of the Ministry of Finance was." Fitzgerald spoke at a contract signing at the Ministry of Works. He said that he suspects that proposals to increase tuition at COB would not get Cabinet support at this time.
"I can't say that I would take it to Cabinet," Fitzgerald said. "I know on the face of it, it is not something that I suspect would be well received. "At the end of the day to increase the fees at COB may... result in us having to actually give more subvention to cover those fees. "So I would wait to see what the council comes to me with to present to the Ministry of Finance. "But I don't suspect that any recommendation to increase fees at The College of The Bahamas would get much support around the Cabinet table at this time."
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