USP decides against penalising students

12/06/2008 16:14

A number of concerned parents and guardians including students attending the University of the South Pacific have lodged their distress with the Consumer Council of Fiji regarding penalisation of students who have inability to meet academic fees on time.

From time to time, the University invokes its stringent policy measures to retrieve monies owed to the institution by preventing these students from sitting their exams through a de-registration process. In fact, the Council has been made aware that some students have been wrongly de-registered in the past. These students are being greatly inconvenienced and unnecessarily tormented at a time when they are supposed to be preparing themselves for exams mentally and emotionally. Instead, they are being given a run around in sorting out their fee payment if they want to be eligible to sit for the exams.

The Council has been disturbed for some time with USP’s adoption of such harsh measures in the efforts to retrieve unpaid fees from students, particularly since these students study hard throughout the semester with an intention to pass their exams and parents and guardians equally work hard to financially support their children for the betterment of their future. To be prevented from sitting their final exams for late payment of fees is a blow not only to the emotional well-being of the student, it also raises where is the States’ social obligation in seeing that every child has access to adequate and affordable education.

The Council had approached the University yesterday after a complaint was lodged by a student who was in dire need of assistance as he is suppose to be sitting for his exams next week, starting on Monday. The Council was informed that the institution has resolved in their Senate meeting yesterday that students would not be prevented from sitting their exams next week and other methods will be utilised to recover money owed to the institution. USP is known to take measures such as not releasing a student’s exam results and if the student is continuing with his or her education, registration for a new semester is disallowed. Such measures are better accepted, as it gives students time to come up with their unpaid fees.

Any educational institution is expected to display sympathy towards the plight of struggling students during these financially challenging times. USP academics have been highlighting in their comments made to the media and through written articles that our economy is suffering in every possible way. The university should further be sympathetic because the taxpayers of this country is subsiding the institution’s costs. In the recent past, USP has exercised its powers to increase its fees and charges on several occasions. Students have been given no option but to come up with the exorbitant fees and charges levied if education at this institution is desired.

Despite the students’ struggle to meet the institution’s high cost of education, USP has been cited for abuse of funds, especially meeting its high maintenance cost of personnel through ridiculously overpriced salaries. It is therefore grossly unfair for USP to adopt extreme policies that prevents students from doing their exams to recover funds. The Council hopes that in the future, no student would be put through any emotional suffering during a time when they should be concentrating and worrying only about passing their exams.