Budget Cuts Force Education Ministry To Cut Support For Incoming UB Students

And while those students are learning financial literacy, apparently so is the minister of education. His ministry's budget for scholarships has been cut by half a million dollars - and, as a consequence, the ministry has now been forced to cut a special assistance given to UB students.

That's a 150 dollar hike in the registration fee that was first introduced in 2006. At the time, just the announcement of it - set off howls of protests - and government had to agree to pay the grand total - about half a million dollars - on the student's behalf - with a plan to revisit the arrangement in six months.

Six months turned into six years and half a million turned into three million - and the arrangement has still not been revisited. But, the new budget cuts have forced the ministry to savings can be made, and that one hundred and fifty dollar assistance - which now costs about three million dollars a year is on the chopping block.

Education minister Patrick Faber today explained the rationale behind the decision.

Hon. Partrick Faber, Minister of Education
"We are simply at the point where we are saying that it is costing the government too much at this time for that to continue. I want to be clear again and this is why I've ask for this interview so that people don't make mischief out of the whole thing. It is not intended that we will stop paying for those students who are current students of UB, in other words those students who are in their 1st year, 2nd year or 3rd year at UB and had already stated with the hope of getting this assistance for the government - this existing assistance, they will continue to get that assistance within a reasonable amount of time."

"But for incoming students we are saying that the government is not going to pick up the tab for that additional amount that UB charged back in 2006 and that the full cost of what it is now will have to be paid by the new and incoming students. We will start in January. We hope that we can save to the tune of 3 million dollars for the year."

Jules Vasquez
"You realize that inevitable there will be a backlash and it will be viewed as a measure which drive up the cost of tertiary education."

Hon. Partrick Faber, Minister of Education
"I understand that I need to make it clear that UB has nothing to do with this. The realities now is that the government is saying we are not going to continue for our new students and we are not going to pay for those new and incoming students that additional fee. You are right; it is going to come across as an increase because those students would not have in the current circumstances had to pay those additional monies. But I am also making the point and if you are asking me for my personal view that tertiary education while I support it and of course I want to make sure that as many Belizeans get an opportunity to attend a tertiary level institution - we have to be serious as well and we have to be real with people. We have issue at the lower levels of education pre-primary, primary, secondary education where the best quality is not being attained, where people are not going to school, we have more than half still of our secondary aged children not going to school, so the ministry focus has got to be on making sure that we improve the quality and improve attendance at these earlier levels of education."

Faber stressed the cut is not going to affect the annual ten million dollar subvention that UB received, nor is it going to affect those who are on scholarships.

It only affects those who start school in Janaury 2013 and after.

Channel 5