A few weeks ago, some students of the government-run University of Liberia took to the streets on Capitol Hill in Monrovia in protest against plans by the administration to increase tuition. The protest, resulting to a huge traffic jam, sealed the only two entrances of the University-opposite the Capitol Building and Foreign Ministry just adjacent the catholic-run University. The students’ expressed dissatisfaction was against the backdrop of the growing financial difficulties confronting them and their parents, accusing the university administration of increasing tuition at a very exorbitant level- from One-Hundred and Seventy-Five Liberian Dollars per credit hour to Five United States Dollars.
According to them, it was very unfair for such decision by the University administration, owing to the fact that the institution remains one of oldest and least universities on the African Continent without contemporary books and library, as well as laboratory facilities, making it unjustifiable for an action of such nature. While the UL students (protesters) may have been right and would continue to be right even the moment, it must be understood that a number of factors may have characterized the authority’s decision for the increment, including the growing student population of thirty-thousand.
Even though there may be an agreement with the students that the University of Liberia must now be at the level of a modern higher learning institution, having be founded in the 1860’s, one of the principal impediments to its growth and development is the deliberate inability of the Liberian legislature to ensure the necessary budgetary allotments to propel the institution to a first class public university.
A very clear case-in-point, which the ‘comrade-militants’ may be fully cognizant of is the slicing of the University’s 2012/2013 Annual budget from about US$24m to between US$14 and 16m, thus thwarting the execution of whatever good plans the administration had developed to create the enabling environment for the thirty-thousand students already enrolled at the UL.
Instead, the lawmakers chose to increase their salaries and benefits by forty percent. The irony is that some of these Representatives and Senators may both be at the UL as lecturers or students at the undergraduate and graduate schools, including the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, and at the sometime, rendering such painful decision against the interest of the very institution in which they also work and are enrolled.
As the result, there may have been no other alternatives by the UL Authorities, but to institute measures such as the increment with which students are unaffordable. Be that as it may, it must also be understood that the University of Liberia is the cheapest university on the west coast of Africa- and probably on the African Continent, and imagining one credit hour at the cost of US$5.00?
Students of the University of Liberia must be admonished as of now, to appreciate the fact that despite all of the constraints with the administration is confronted, the doors of the university continue to remain opened on a regular basis with graduation taking place twice every year unlike in the past, when it took more than two years to complete an academic year. They must appreciate the current administration for the current level of achievements not only on the main campus, but also at Fendall.
The UL Students must not blame the current UL Administration for whatever challenges the proposed increment in tuition may pose to them, but Representatives and Senators who are alumni, as well as those that are either enrolled or serving as lecturers presently. They are the problems.