July 17, 2015
Vincentians protest hike in fees at T&T law school

Seven Vincentians attending the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS) in Trinidad are protesting a sudden 40 per cent hike in fees and have called on Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves to intervene on their behalf.

Jenell Gibson, Jeville John, Shernell Hadaway, John Ballah, Kaywana Jacobs,{{more}} Nellien Bute and Ann-Marie Jack in a letter to the Prime Minister, said the increased fees have placed an enormous burden on the current Vincentian students and may force many students to abandon their hopes of obtaining the Legal Education Certificate and practising in the region.

According to the letter, at the beginning of the academic year, students were provided with a schedule of fees for the academic year 2014-2015. Students from St Vincent and the Grenadines were required to pay a total of TT$65,793 (EC$ 27,933.74).

“From our understanding of the position, St Vincent and the Grenadines is not one of the territories which contribute to the budget of the Council of Legal Education. As a consequence, we, the Vincentian students, are left to bear the full tuition costs. The 2014-2015 fees (TT$65,793.00) were therefore paid in full by the Vincentian students. It is with pleasure that we inform you that all seven students have successfully completed the first academic year of the two-year programme and have done exceptionally well.”

The students say beginning Monday, July 13, packages containing the new fee schedule for the 2015-2016 academic year were disseminated to students.

“The student body was informed, in these packages, that, as of September 2015 for the academic year 2015-2016, academic fees would be increased to TT$91,014.87 (EC$38,642.20), an approximate 40 per cent increase from last year’s figure of TT$65,793.

“This astronomical hike in tuition has caused uproar across the entire student body. The Student Representative Council (SRC) has launched inquiries into the reason for this increase and it intends to raise the issue with the Prime Ministers, Attorneys General, and Bar Associations of each of the affected territories.

“In implementing this new fee structure, the HWLS failed to provide its students with any reasonable notice of the new fees, with the result that students who have obtained loans or other forms of funding, or those who have sought to cover their law school expenses from their own resources are now pressed to secure these additional funds in a period of just over one month.

“This situation is worsened by the fact that the imposition of the new tuition fee comes with the requirement that the full amount (TT$91,014.87) be paid by September 11th 2015. Prior to this, students were given the opportunity to pay their fees in two instalments at the beginning of both terms 1 and 2, in September and January respectively,” the letter said.

“What this means is that many students may be forced to abandon their hopes of obtaining the Legal Education Certificate and practising law in the region. Further, the TT$65,793, which was expended during the first academic year will be entirely wasted. It seems manifestly unfair to require current students to now pay such a large increase in our fees with only one month’s notice to do so.”

“These increased fees have placed an enormous burden on the current Vincentian students and will only further dissuade others in the future.

“We are kindly asking for your assistance in appealing to the Council of Legal Education to delay implementation of this new fee structure for current students to enable us to finance our final year at the HWLS, and ultimately acquire the Legal Education Certificate. We have fought too hard to get where we are now and we must press on.”

The letter from the students, dated July 15, was copied to the local newspapers, the Ministry of Education, the Attorney General, the SVG Bar Association and the Director of Finance.