University of the Southern Caribbean....students are upset with the decision by officials there to charge a fee for a virtual graduation ceremony.

One week after students from the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) expressed concerns publicly regarding the $650 price tag for a virtual graduation ceremony, the school’s administration has agreed to cancel the event and award the students their diplomas free of charge.

In a release late on Wednesday, the USC’s Coordinator, Integrated Marketing and Communications, Josh Rudder said, “USC is cognisant of the hardships created by the Covid-19 pandemic as we continue to engage our stakeholders to amicably resolve issues that are brought to our attention by our students.”

“In response to the recent public protest of some members of the 2020 graduating class, the President’s Cabinet of the University of the Southern Caribbean has decided to hold a Conferral Ceremony on the 9th October, 2020 and cancel the previously scheduled Virtual Graduation Ceremony.”

He confirmed that diplomas would be distributed to all students who have satisfied the requirements for graduation without charge, from October 12.

Rudder assured that students who had already paid the graduation fees payments would be refunded and he advised them to contact the Student Finance Office to initiate the process.

Looking ahead, he said students from the 2020 graduating class who were desirous of participating in the next graduation ceremony could contact the registrar’s office to register their interest before the end of this semester.

He said: “COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the tertiary education industry and USC has commissioned research to measure the impacts on our stakeholders and the various aspects of our operations. These studies will guide the university in making evidence-based decisions in our response to this COVID-19 crisis.”

A further 99 people were added to the list of positive cases yesterday.

Rudder claimed that since the outbreak of the pandemic in March, USC had waived the registration fees for the summer; waived the application fees for this academic year; awarded $1.5 million in education assistance; provided 50 per cent discount of the registration fees to all students registering this semester; provided discounts in specific Master degree programmes; disbursed relief assistance to students enduring financial difficulties; and provided payment plans to assist students to comfortably continue their studies.

Approximately 550 students were scheduled to graduate from USC in November.

They appealed to Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly for her assistance following an alleged stand-off with campus officials over the exorbitant fees they claimed, they were being forced to pay in order to secure their diplomas.

The students were originally scheduled to graduate in June and receive their certificates by July 31.

After the traditional ceremony was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school informed students that a virtual graduation would be held in November at a cost of $750 per student.

This was later reduced by the university to $650.

Rudder said the annual graduation fee had been reduced from $1,100 as the university had moved to subsidise, “the cost given the economic constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”