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UG Law Grads asked to pay 30 percent increase in tuition fees at Law School

The Hugh Wooding Law School.

University of Guyana (UG) law graduates are now faced with a 32.29 percent hike in tuition fees to pursue their Legal Education Certificate (LEC) studies at the Trinidad-based Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS)

In real terms students from Guyana have to find an additional GUY$1.6 million, based on an exchange rate of $1.00 Trinidad and Tobago (TT) dollar = GUY$32.00

The tuition fees have actually shot up to TT$182,028 (G$5,824,448) from the previous TT$131,400 (G$4,204,800).

The increase is already being seen as problematic for prospective students, but more so for students looking to enter the second and final year of the LEC programme as the arrangements they have made, or are in the process of making were aimed at gathering the previous amount. Moreover, as per a new policy at the school, Guyanese students are required to pay 100 percent of each year’s tuition by strictly enforced deadlines.  

When contacted on Tuesday, Vice-President of the University of Guyana Law Society (UGLS), Devin Singh, said “The impetuous increase of fees by the HWLS for law students from September 2015 has great implications for the Guyanese students.” He noted the fact that “UG law students looking to continue their legal education at HWLS are not afforded any government subsidies.”

“This,” he continued, “underscores the struggle of affordability to begin with.” He further noted that several students pursuing legal education come from low income homes,” and he believes that “this increase clearly spells disaster for our Guyanese law students who worked diligently in the first instance to attempt to ensure their position at the institution.”

Demerara Waves Online News was able to make contact with one Guyanese student who is about to commence second-year studies at the HWLS. The student, who asked not to be named, explained that they had just gotten together the last portion of the tuition fee needed for the second and final year or studies at HWLS, but now there is no certainty that the additional amount can be raised in time for the start of the semester.

The student also doubted that “some of the others will be able to get the money together in time.” Some “might be going back home this year,” the students said.

Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General (AG), Basil Williams, who makes representation to the Council of Legal Education (CLE) on behalf of Guyana’s law students, was unavailable for comment when contacted on Tuesday. 

Students were first informed of the hike via a memo which detailed increased first and second-year tuition for students originating from several territories, including Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, and “other Common Law Jurisdictions.”

Students from the above-named territories are now required to pay TT$91,014 per year. While fees have also been increased for St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada and Barbados, students from these territories will pay TT$18,858 per year since their respective governments continue to make financial contributions to the economic upkeep of the HWLS.

Students from Trinidad and Tobago will be required to pay TT$18,858 yearly, or TT$6,358 if they are covered by the country’s Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) programme.

Tuition fees for Guyanese students are as high as they are because the Government of Guyana does not contribute to the economic upkeep of the law school. This cost is borne by the Guyanese students. Guyanese law students are desirous of having government recommence these payments to ease their tuition costs, but Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General (AG), Basil Williams, speaking to the press last month,  indicated that such payments would not recommence in the foreseeable future, if at all.

The memos detailing the necessary fees for both years can be found on the school’s official website (http://www.hwls.edu.tt/fees).

UG’s prospective top 25 for 2015 can now add increased tuition fees to their list of worries. With just about two months remaining before the 2015/2016 academic year at HWLS commences they are yet to receive definitive word on whether they will be accepted automatically.

As a contingency plan, some students, including those who perceive themselves among the top 25, have taken the entrance examination.