Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee says high graduation fees being charged by the state-run University undermines the Tuition-Free policy of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government.
Speaking on Monday, May 29, in his capacity as Secretary General of the ruling party, Koijee explained that the rationale behind the Tuition-Free policy is to enable Liberians many of whom are downtrodden to rise from poverty by giving them privileges to gain higher education.
“This is why the party, ever since its ascendency to power has been proud of its actions for instituting policies and programs that benefit those at the lowest point of the economic ladder through the Pro-Poor Agenda for Development and Prosperity (PAPD),” Mr. Koijee stated.
He said the Tuition Free policy introduced by President George Weah affecting all public universities across the country is to relieve parents from the extra costs that come with a college education, a critical step towards increasing the country’s human capital development indices.
However, he said this policy is being undermined by the high graduation fees being charged by university authorities.
“We cannot be telling our people to go to public universities free of tuition and then when they shall have completed their studies, they would be confronted with the challenge of paying hefty graduation fees. Something needs to be done about this. This is a burden too weighty for the ordinary people to bear,’ he told journalists at the CDC headquarters.
Koijee stated that asking people to pay graduation fees after lifting tuition burden off their shoulders undermines the true intent of the pro-poor educational policy that seeks to enable every Liberian to acquire tertiary education.
“The CDC- led Government under the leader of the paragon of peace, George Manneh Weah is committed to removing everything that represents barrier to ensuring that Liberians are emancipated from the dungeon of illiteracy to the pedestal of intelligence,” he asserted.
The CDC scribe pointed out that the decision to demand graduating students to pay hefty amounts like the US$375.00 the University of Liberia (UL) is requesting is akin to saying go to school now and pay at the end of your studies.
He furthered that the tuition free policy is being taken to a sterner level through the introduction of a bill by two CDC lawmakers: Representative Frank Saah Foko and Representative Thomas P. Fallah, which is now before the Liberian Senate for concurrence as a way of making sure that even the regime of President Weah, Liberians do not go back to the dark of educational opportunities being available to the privileged few who have access to state resources and their families.
“I have heeded the instruction of the Chairman of the Coalition for Democratic Change, Mulbah K. Morlu to write the Minister of Education, Prof. D Ansu Sonii and the office of the President to look into the matter for immediate redress,” Mr. Koijee, who is also the Mayor of Monrovia, accentuated.
He entreated Minister Sonii to begin taking steps in that regard while President Weah is on his way back from Nigeria where he has gone to attend the inauguration of the new President of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Mayor Koijee maintained that paying graduation fees seems to be unique to Liberia because during his recent visit to the University of Oxford, he asked about similar situation, and he was informed that was not happening.
“Hence, it is unthinkable that a country that is struggling to pull through the mud of economic destitution would endeavor to overburden its citizenry,” Mr. Koijee added.
President Weah in October 2019 announced a Tuition Free Policy for students in public universities as means of underwriting the cost of a college education here for those who cannot afford to attend private universities. He declared that tuition would be free for all undergraduates in Liberian public universities.
His pronouncement came following several protests from university students against rising fees.
The rising cost of a college education at the time saw a reduction in the number of students at the entry level. For instance, in 2018/2019 academic year, the University of Liberia projected to enroll about 20,000 students. But the university recorded about 12,000 students due to the hike in fees. Out of the 12,000 students, about 5,000 depend on financial aid or scholarships.
The policy was expected to help a large number of students, with plans to introduce the same in all community colleges and the country’s four public universities (the University of Liberia, the Booker Washington Institute, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law and the William V.S. Tubman University).
However, the policy has come with its own challenges as the additional fees which were received through these fees to augment the university budgets were cut off leading to several protests from faculty members for unpaid salaries and allowances.