First District Representative, Opposition Member Hon. Andrew Fahie divulged that loopholes resulted in the HLSCC tuition free program becoming an expensive initiative.
The Legislator while speaking in the House of Assembly on 8 April during the debate of the Status of Children Bill referred to the tuition program as a ‘Pandora box’, and explained that the situation could have been avoided if the initiative was thoroughly discussed: “We opened a Pandora box with the free tuition at the College, and people came from all over because they had status. On top of that, they failed the subjects, were allowed to do the subject over; and Madame Speaker that had to be addressed again; because it was costing the government money. Everything was free but the influx of persons with those status came in and mushroomed the enrolment of the college and mushroomed the expenditure of the College because certain nuts and bolts were not narrowed down,” Hon. Fahie stated.
He told the House that from the time the initiative was instituted the enrolment of the College increased exponentially. He said that he was pleased to hear of the increase, because he assumed that a lot of the Territory’s children were taking advantage of the program.
However, the Legislator explained that his opinion changed when he was given a true picture of the situation. Hon. Fahie said that during a visit to the H L Stoutt College he was informed that the population included students from overseas who have belonger status. He told the House: “I am not knocking for helping our people to get to College free, but I am just showing that sometimes some loopholes open without extensive discussion…so they got free tuition and they came and they crowded the College; got the two years and they were gone. Now we have to plug those holes and from then to now that tuition assistance program has not caught itself from then to now with the monies. It can’t catch up and you are wondering how come.”
Hon. Fahie noted that he is not against all students access to education, but opined that stipulations should have been included to ensure that the system was not abused. “I have nothing against them (students from overseas) accessing education, but Madame Speaker even to the United States of America, although you are an American you have certain laws in place that if you are going to school in Florida, and you are not a Floridian you have certain fees versus those who are Floridian. If you are from Florida you have an even lower fee that you would pay.”