The University of the Virgin Islands board of trustees unanimously approved a proposed $41.7 million budget for the school’s 2021-22 fiscal year for operating expenses, debt service and mandated and miscellaneous programs.
The trustees’ vote, taken on Saturday during a virtual meeting on Zoom, ratified action taken during the regular session of the Feb. 10 executive committee. A breakdown of the proposed budget was not available.
The trustees also unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding reducing the tuition that students from St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College will be charged to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees. The new rate will be 1.75 times the rate established for in-territory students. The in-territory rate is currently $2,315.50 per semester for a full-time student. But since 2019 V.I. residents who graduated from a local high school and maintained a 2.5 or higher grade point average can have tuition waived.
“We have always tried to be open to receiving students from the broader Caribbean, that is part of the history of UVI,” UVI President David Hall said.
The university’s goal is to make it easier for students interested in attending college to enroll at UVI by lowering the out-of-territory tuition. The out-of-territory tuition for UVI is currently about three times the in-territory tuition, and that has been a burden to students from some of the neighboring islands, Hall said.
“We have done this with a number of islands as well,” he said. A similar memorandum of understanding has been in effect with St. Kitts and Nevis since 2013.
At the same time, Hall said providing higher education for Virgin Islanders remains the school’s top priority.
“We are in no way by doing this backing away from our primary mission, which is to serve the students of the Virgin Islands. We must also realize that the demographic shift that is occurring in the Virgin Islands, especially regarding college-age students, is at a downward shift,” he said.
As a part of the agreement, classroom and office spaces also will be available for a UVI representative on campus at St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College.
In other action,
– The board heard a suggestion that the May commencements be held virtually. “Some of the graduates are disappointed, but they understand,” said Hall. The potential date for graduation is May 14. The speakers for the graduation will include recently elected Sen. Rafael Warnock (D-GA), the first African American senator from Georgia. He is the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was Martin Luther King Jr.’s church. He will be granted an honorary degree as approved by the board.
– Frank Mills, director of the Eastern Caribbean Center at the University of the Virgin Islands and St. Thomas-St. John census manager, was awarded the president’s appreciation award for his work with the 2020 census.
– Robert Godfrey gave a brief presentation about the Senepol Cattle research project.
The board then went into an executive session, where it received an update on the medical school project and approved a resolution to authorize Hall to commence with the reapplication for the liaison committee for medical education.
Members present to the board meeting included Henry Smock, Oran Roebuck, Hall, Racquel Berry-Benjamin, Kyza Callwood, Verleen McSween, Hadiyah Lang, Nisha Clavier, Lois Hassell-Habtes, John Quelch, Yvonne Thraen, Reginald Vigilant and Wesley Williams.
The next board meeting is expected to be on June 19.