While many tertiary level students are in the midst of exam preparations, 23-year-old full-time student Shantel Perouza is faced with being debarred from her two final year courses to graduate from the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT).
Perouza who has been pursuing a bachelor degree in general nursing for the past five years, was emailed a proposed payment plan by Davon Musgrave from the office of the registrar at COSTAATT in August, for the sum of $12, 930 for the period of August 2016 till August 2017.
“I entered COSTAATT before Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) became an electronic process. Every semester when I had to apply for funding, the system would always have glitches and my account would expire. I visited GATE’s St Augustine office frequently and the process became stressful so I eventually stopped trying,” said Perouza.
On receiving the email from COSTAATT, she visited the St Augustine office where she was told by staff that she could apply for funding to cover the $12,930 but she had to pay for the two courses she is currently pursuing.
“I was allowed to register and do all the work necessary for these two courses and to find out at this last hour that if I don’t pay an additional $7, 000. I won’t be able to complete my degree is quite frustrating. As far as I know nursing is fully-funded by GATE.”
“I am a full-time student, I do not work anywhere. I am supported by my two older sisters. I am pleading for the opportunity to sit my exams where I can graduate and get a job. I have no problem paying for the two courses when I am working because things are very tough for my family at this point in time,” explained Perouza.
In July, COSTAATT students publicly expressed concern over GATE, as students received emails indicating that GATE would not be paying tuitions for previous academic years after January 1. This was later clarified by the Ministry of Education, as it only applied to students who did not apply for GATE funding.
“This is not the first time something like this is happening but all I would like to be given is the opportunity to sit these two exams, which I have prepared so hard for.” Perouza said that GATE has some technical issues which need to be fixed very soon.
Perouza was also sent a second email by COSTAATT which explained that over the years the institution has been faced with “budget cuts, slow reimbursement of GATE by government and declining GATE revenue,” as such in 2018 COSTAATT will be reverting to a two-semester academic calendar, with short sessions being reserved for students who are on track to graduate in November 2018. Calls to the Ministry of Education and GATE, St Augustine for a comment proved futile.