9-Year-Old Boy Dies After Being Shot in Head in Croixville Housing Community; Police Detain 15-Year-Old

Concerned Residents Clean Christiansted Town Using Their Own Tools, Money, and Some Help from the VI Fire Service

Territory May See Veterans Cemetery Through DeGazon-Sponsored Bill

Credit and Debit Cards of WAPA Customers Were Compromised Since August 30th, WAPA Says, Authority to Finally Start Issuing Notification Via Mail and Email

Sports Tourism in VI Gains Momentum as DC United Team is set to Play Exhibition Soccer Game on St. Croix

Carnival Breeze Brings 3,700 Tourists to St. Croix During Maiden Call; Senators, Tourism Officials Want to See More

Limetree Bay Willing To Provide $10 Million To Help Add Life to a Dying G.E.R.S.

American Airlines to Serve St. Croix With New Flights Next Summer

The Sudden Death of Influential Roots Reggae Visionary, Vaughn Benjamin of Midnite Band and Akae Beka, Has Rocked the Virgin Islands and Reggae Community Around the World

Arthur A. Richards K-8 School Hosts Anti-Bullying Campaign

Come Out. Hang Out. Have Fun at The Meat Up, One of St. Thomas’ Latest Hot-Spot for Good Food with Friends and Family.

UVI Board of Trustees Approves $47.1 Million Fiscal Year 2020 Budget; Sets $3 Million Fundraising Goal

Man Dies During Early Morning Car Accident on St. Croix; Driver of Car Arrested (Updated)

'You Did Everything You Could to Prevent this from Happening': An Emotional Goodbye to Young Aaron Benjamin

Back in Business: Cost U Less on St. Thomas Opened its Doors Friday to Thousands of Customers 2 Years after Irma and Maria

Bill Aimed at Regulating Credit Use by Gov't Departments and Agencies Among Others Held in Committee

Juan Luis Hospital Announces Completion and Availability of Mobile Dialysis Facilities

Tractor Trailer With Tank Carrying Thousands Of Gallons of Liquified Gas Flips Near Cool Out Bar; Driver Injured But Alive

Credit and Debit Card Hack Through WAPA Appears to be Widespread in Virgin Islands; WAPA Says Support Services Will be Made Available to Affected Customers

Facing Life in Prison Without Parole, Mother and Boyfriend Plead Not Guilty in Murder of 4-Year-Old Boy

Game Changer: Free College Tuition In USVI Shows First Signs Of Success

Education / Featured / Virgin Islands / June 19, 2019

What happens when you make attaining higher education a human right, instead of a privilege that needs to be paid for? One hundred and sixty-seven of 215 students who graduated from the Charlotte Amalie High School this month will be attending college in the territory to, among other reasons, take advantage of the free tuition being offered at the University of the Virgin Islands.

Excitement around free college tuition grew significantly following the introduction of a bill by former Governor Kenneth Mapp in September 2018. The measure, which was created largely by the university, sparked renewed hope that what was once a dream would become reality. “Today, in conjunction with the University of the Virgin Islands, I am sending a bill to the Virgin Islands Legislature entitled the Virgin Islands Workforce Development Scholarship Program,” Mr. Mapp announced at Government House on St. Croix in September.

The Internal Revenue Matching Fund, known as the rum cover-over funds, was identified as the source of funding for the new law, which UVI and the Mapp administration said would cost roughly $3 million annually for up to 1,700 students, with UVI making up the rest through endowments and private funding — something that UVI President David Hall said was possible. 

“We had to get to a point where what we would be asking the government to absorb was a more reasonable number, and that’s because we have had private individuals, especially the RT Park — every company that comes in now has to commit to one or more scholarships — and so overtime I saw us getting closer and closer to a point where I thought I could go to the governor and Legislature and say the gap is not $5 million no more, the gap is $3 million,” Mr. Hall said. In a recent interview with The Consortium, RT Park officials revealed that funding to UVI this year is already more than $900,000, up from more than $700,000 in 2018, with officials projecting more than $1 million in funding by the end of the fiscal year.

Following the announcement by Mr. Mapp, the author of a similar free tuition bill, former senator and current lieutenant governor, Tregenza Roach, reminded the territory of his own measure, which was drafted before the recently introduced one. In the end, prevailing ideas from both measures were meshed into the final bill — with Mr. Roach retaining authorship — and the measure sailed through the Legislature and was signed into law by Mr. Mapp early January, 2019.

The benefits of the new law was on brightest display during the graduation ceremony of the Charlotte Amalie Class of 2019 held at UVI. There, it was announced that 167 of the 215 graduates had decided to enroll at UVI, with free tuition an obvious and prevailing factor for many.

The benefits of this new reality in the Virgin Islands could transform the territory in the coming years. One of the major problems the USVI has faced is losing its best and brightest — and there are many — to the US mainland upon completion of high school. Once these students become entrenched in the U.S. mainland style of living, where they also find jobs and build families, it is hard to pick up and move to the USVI, where news of a weak economy serves only to discourage any desire from these students to return home.

But with college now free here, more students across the territory, not just at Charlotte Amalie, are deciding to stay home. Parents, too, help shape this critical decision, as they are the ones most times paying for college.

The results and benefits to be realized in the coming years are immense and could be game-changing: The depleted workforce that has forced employers to seek workers outside the territory will be mitigated; the territory will have more people as thousands of students stay home for education and to work, boosting the local economy; young entrepreneurs with fresh ideas will create new businesses in the territory (aided by the RT Park’s Accelerator Program), creating a diverse field of opportunities while spurring growth.

“I am honored that the Virgin Islands has arrived at a place where the University of the Virgin Islands and one of its [Board of Trustees members] in particular, Oran Roebuck Bowry, who has been a main champion on the Board of Trustees on finding a pathway that we could provide a four-year college education free of charge to every high school graduate in the U.S. Virgin Islands, whether it’s from private, public or parochial schools,” Mr. Mapp said during the announcement in September.

While tuition is now free at UVI, there are other costs associated with seeking higher education, according to Mr. Hall. He said students will still need to purchase their books, and if they desire to stay on campus, there are costs associated with that as well. Mr. Hall said he would continue working with private firms to build on the endowments being provided to UVI, and work towards more permanent relationships with companies that give to the university with no strict commitment.

The funding mechanism of the program depends in part on the continued growth of the USVI economy, Mr. Hall said. The more businesses that setup shop in the territory, the more students the program will be able to cover, he said.

Ernice Gilbert
I wear many hats, I suppose, but the one which fits me best would be journalism, second to that would be radio personality, thirdly singer/songwriter and down the line. I've been the Editor-In-Chief at my videogames website, Gamesthirst, for over 5 years, writing over 7,000 articles and more than 2 million words. I'm also very passionate about where I live, the United States Virgin Islands, and I'm intent on making it a better place by being resourceful and keeping our leaders honest. VI Consortium was birthed out of said desire, hopefully my efforts bear fruit. Reach me at [email protected].

Previous Post

Dept. of Education Has Formally Announced Its K-8 Plan For School Year 2019-2020. Full Details Inside.

Next Post

Virgin Islander Michael Thomas To Honor Civil Rights Icon Andrew Young, Other Caribbean Leaders At 'Captain of Industry Awards And Gala' In Atlanta

Leave a Reply

More Story

Dept. of Education Has Formally Announced Its K-8 Plan For School Year 2019-2020. Full Details Inside.

The Department of Education on Tuesday formally announced its plan for school configuration in the St. Croix District for the 2019-2020...

June 18, 2019