Debt choke

Private students top SINU’s unpaid tuition fees

By Alfred Sasako

THE Solomon Islands National University (SINU) is owed about $48 million in unpaid tuition fees with more than half the amount owed by private students, it was revealed yesterday.

Insiders told Island Sun hundreds of students face the prospect of being turned away this year for non-payment of tuition fees, which have been accumulating since last year.

The SINU management has been invited by Government Caucus to address what has been described as an “unfolding crisis” in the tertiary education sector. That meeting will take place next Tuesday.

According to insiders, private students topped the unpaid tuition fee tally, owing some $28 million. Members of Parliament come in second place, owing some $12.8 million in unpaid tuition fees.

Guadalcanal Province is in third place at $7.9 million in arrears, according to insiders.

One insider told Island Sun that SINU has taken a hard line on arrears informing students of a number of measures Management has taken to deal with the growing problem.

SINU has for example informed students that unless their outstanding tuition fees or arrears from last year are cleared, they would be denied registration to attend classes in the 2020 academic year. SINU has also introduced a new measure for new and continuing students

“They must pay 60 per cent of the semester’s tuition fee upfront before they are allowed registration,” the insider said.

“It’s tough but it is the only way to tackle what is a growing problem,” the insider said.

Outstanding fees have exacerbated SINU’s financial situation, given that the Government has never paid up its annual operational and development grants in any one year.

“SINU would be lucky to collect say fifty per cent of the grants in any one year. So tuition fees make up a lot for the shortfall in SINU’s annual budget,” the insider said.

One other insider said the MPs’ unpaid bill of $12.8 million was in the form of commitments that MPs and their Constituency Development Officers [CDOs] make to students without honoring them.

The insider said MPs found themselves in the same embarrassing situation last year when they could not clear their Constituency arrears. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources (MEHRD) had to intervene by clearing the millions of dollars MPs owed SINU in unpaid tuition fees.

It is possible MPs might again ask the Ministry to clear the $12.8 million in unpaid SINU tuition fees this year. “It is possible this would come up in the briefing with Government Caucus next Tuesday.”

Meanwhile it has been revealed that at one point East Kwaio Constituency owed SINU the highest amount in arrears, followed by Central Honiara Constituency.

According to figures obtained yesterday East Kwaio owed SINU about $865, 000 in unpaid tuition fees in the second semester of last year.

“The MP has since paid some but $349, 120 is still outstanding. Unless this amount is cleared, those students whose names appear against the arrears will not be allowed to register,” the insider said.

In the case of Central Honiara Constituency, the amount reportedly owing in unpaid tuition fees is $669, 604. That is the amount that is outstanding,” the insider said.

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