The rapidly deteriorating economic situation in Liberia ranging from lack of accountability and transparency, inflation and high exchange rate to diversion of donors’ funds is devastating various sectors, including health and education with the University of Liberia sinking into deficit.
UL President Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks says, the University is running in deficit since the Visitor to the University, Liberia’s President George Manneh Weah announced “free tuition” in 2018.
A report by the Senate Statutory Committee on Education and Public Administration Thursday, 9 May on Capitol Hill highlights Dr. Weeks and her team’s warning that the situation could undermine the school’s effective running, if no immediate intervention were made.
Dr. Weeks’ report to the committee means that UL’s expenditure exceeds its income, which could be very worrisome for President Weah and his policymakers, as the state-run University blames its gap in revenue generation on Weah’s tuition free declaration last year for undergraduate programs at UL and all public universities here.
According to Dr. Weeks, President Weah made no consultation with the management of the University prior to making the pronouncement.
The student population at UL alone is estimated roughly around 30,000, and the institution continues to grapple with age – old infrastructure challenges, including other poor services that demand improvements to run a modern university.
On 24 October 2018, President Weah surprisedly announced at the UL Capitol Hill Campus that undergraduate students in public colleges and universities would no more pay tuition.
“I therefore wish to declare tuition-free for all undergraduate students at the University of Liberia as well as all other public universities in Liberia,” the President said.
But roughly seven months after his “free tuition” declaration, Dr. Weeks says there are no policy guidelines or strategy developed or presented to management since the pronouncement.
The Senate Committee gathers from Dr. Weeks that the University of Liberia has major challenges associated with collection of tuition, debts from scholarship and financial aid sponsors, like Government Institutions, Government Officials and Private Sponsors.
According to the UL president, the pronouncement of free tuition has caused a gap in the revenue generating capacity of the University.
The Senate Committee chaired by River Cess County Sen. Dallas Gueh details that without formal excuse, the Ministers of Finance and Education were absent from the meeting [during the Senate’s inquiry] on the free tuition matter.
According to the Senate’s report, the first meeting was postponed because a key actor, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah had an official engagement and requested for an excuse.
However the committee notes that when the meeting was called for the second time, Minister Tweah didn’t give excuse for not attending again.
The report from the Senate Statutory committee was in relation to Grand Bassa County Sen. Nyonblee Kangar- Lawrence’s communication written to plenary, seeking to know the status of the “Free Tuition” program.The committee says it will again invite the Ministers of Finance and Education for explanations.
By Ethel A. Tweh –Edited by Winston W. Parley