There are troubling signs that may potentially affect the second semester academic programs at the state-run University of Liberia or UL, judging from a complete divide between the student population and administration backed by the UL Board of Trustees over tuition increase of US$4.00 per credit hour for the undergraduate program.
Though the latest rigmarole is yet to witness the usual stone-throwing protest at UL, the Student Unification Party or SUP said on Wednesday, 23 March that over 3,200 students have already signed a petition to be delivered to Legislators in the coming days, and that “a peaceful assembly and rally” will soon be held.
SUP, like its major contender Student Integration Movement or SIM, has rejected the fees increase already endorsed by UL Board from US$2.05 to US$4.00 on grounds that the university has “no concrete achievements to display” after increasing tuition and fees in past learning. “There is no access to internet connectivity, computer lab, improved infrastructure, modern libraries, science laboratories, research and career development centers, buses, safe drinking water, clinic, bathrooms, parks, advanced classroom, affordable dormitories, cafeteria, student center, sporting programs, etc,” SUP said.
The campus-based party noted that learning at UL was no different from learning in hell, citing the lack of access to loan, financial aid, grant, student exchange program, internship and vacation jobs. SUP Chairman Jerome Dangbuah expressed fears yesterday that most of the “over 80 percent of the students at the UL” that depend solely on scholarship opportunities and financial aid from philanthropists and donors will drop out of school with the tuition increase.
He claimed that over 95 percent of the over 30,000 UL students were unemployed or jobless and depended merely on what he referred to as transitory income for survival due to the high cost of living here.
Student Dangbuah additionally lamented that for more than three years, a student loan bill has been lingering at the Legislature. Ahead of the SUP news conference Wednesday, Acting UL Board Chairman Jewel Howard Taylor had said on Tuesday, 22 March that the board
agreed that “the cost per credit hour for the undergraduate courses be increased from US $2.05 to US $4.000.” Graduate and professional schools will pay an increase of US$75 from US$55, except medial and pharmacy schools, beginning semester two 2015/2016.
Opposed to the argument raised by the students, the university claimed to have made some improvements despite a US$7.7m deficit, including the acquisition of doctorate and master’s degrees by some staff members, massive painting of buildings and internet connectivity it said will be available to both staff and students commencing next semester.
But the students considered the increment as an act of provocation and “a declaration of war on the student community” by the university, “in cohort with the government.” “… The University of Liberia is not a profit-making entity or public enterprise. Those who think that the State-run institution is a revenue-generating arm of government must rethink. If you want to make profit, we encourage you to go to NOCAL, Maritime, LPRC, Freeport of Monrovia, etc.,” they said, wondering what is big about providing US$29m to run a university of 31,000 students with four campuses, over 1,000 faculty members and 1,200 staff, when the Legislature with 103 Lawmakers has a US$38m annual budget.
“… We are compelled to state that the annual budget of just 30 senators [is] US$11,448,938.00m. While our people lack access to quality education and live in acute poverty, our leaders are becoming millionaires,” the students lamented, expressing the belief that if some of the “unnecessary expenses” were diverted to the University of Liberia, there would be no need to increase tuition,” they said.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by George Barpeen