Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 31st 2014 Contents SBG6 NEWS
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt AUGUST 31 • 2014
By the time this article is pub-
lished, orientation week fes-
tivities at all of T&T s uni-
versities would essentially be
over. Those embarking on
their tertiary education jour-
ney for the first time would now know their
way around the campus, having had guided
tours. They now know how to use the search
facilities at the library. They would have also
signed up for campus activities, met their lec-
turers and, hopefully, a new friend or two.
However, as one phase of their journey
ends, another begins: that of actually surviving
the course of their three- year or four-year
programme. This, of course, involves nego-
tiating the system successfully enough to
acquire the academic qualification, but few
realise it will also involve having enough
money to meet all of the ancillary expenses
along the way.
For the majority of new students who are
having their tuition expenses met by the
GATE (Government Assistance for Tuition
Expenses) programme for undergraduate
degrees, much of the pressure is off. Or is it?
As the September 8 budget looms, there
is discussion about the need to restructure
GATE restructure. If today s student were
forced to do without GATE support---as it
has been traditionally structured---how many
students who now access the programme
Even if the programme remains the same,
tuition will be taken care of, but not the
remainder of the costs: books, photocopies,
laptops, stationery, meals and the like.
The full-time student living off campus
also has the issue of rent. As a full-time stu-
dent, they would not be able to work for sub-
stantial sums of money, but will still have to
take care of these expenses. For those who do
not have family support, how do they cope?
The Sunday BG attempted to get a sense
of how they might.
*Gail attended UWI full time in the days
just before the institution of GATE. Her parents
were unable to afford fees, even with the sup-
port of the Dollar-for-Dollar programme,
which preceeded GATE and paid half of the
She had an uncle co-sign her loans for her
first year of fees which were around $20,000.
For the remaining two years she took a series
of odd jobs around the campus to make up
her tuition including: work at the campus
library as an usher at university events and
as an exam grader during her post-graduate
She thought the campus staff at Student
Services was particularly supportive as they
would always make sure she was called when
there were small jobs to be done around cam-
pus, mainly because, she admitted, she was
assertive enough to ask for help.
"I went to them early and I said, I want
to learn, but I can t afford it, I need you to
help me help myself. I wanted the opportunity
to work for myself and earn my own money
and they (Student Services) allowed that."
But still, it was not easy and, in her own
words, she never had enough to live "com-
"That is what paid my fees. That is what
paid my rent. It was really tough. There were
times when the rent was paid, but I had noth-
ing to eat."
The apartment cost $1,000 per month.
Gail s family lived in the deep South and, with
no relatives close to campus, she chose to
rent as on-campus housing was hard to get.
She split the rent with two friends. She said
the landlord did not mind how many people
were in the apartment, as long as the rent
The friends would share other things to
cut down costs. With their collective earnings
from their on-campus jobs, they would put
up to buy groceries. Gail recalled eating Ramen
noodles and macaroni and corned beef only,
one particular week.
Other times these were luxuries.
"I remember sometimes my lunch would
be $3 in pholourie and a coconut water, or
She said she certainly didn t fit the stereo-
type of the uber-social UWI student, always
ready for a lime. Money for entertainment
and clothing was hard to come by and so Gail
never went out. This was another thing she
did to keep her costs down.
"I didn t go anywhere. I didn t have trans-
port. If I wanted to go to Tunapuna, I would
walk there and back."
Gail also didn t buy books. She recounted
that she did not even have the money to make
photocopies as she saw other people doing.
"I had no other choice but to sit down and
go to the library and read. I would go to class
and watch people open their texts, I would
borrow mine from the library. My books were
always stamped University of the West Indies."
Gail, though, does not regret the experience.
Now a professional in her early 30s, Gail
credited her hardship during her university
years as giving her several skills necessary to
survive the world of work and life in gener-
"It taught me to plan, because if you don t
have a plan, you will reach nowhere in this
life. It taught me not judge myself based on
other people s possessions. Many times on
campus, I felt out of place because I couldn t
do as much as what other people were doing.
But it worked out in the long run.
"I also learned flexibility, because things do
not always go to plan and you also do not
always get what you want and you have to
anticipate that. But, most importantly, I learned
Ultimately, there are financial lessons that
tertiary level students can be draw from Gail s
• As far as possible, find a stream of income.
Gail was able to survive because she was able
to do this;
• Having found a source of income, Gail
also learned to live within her means, ensuring
that her major costs such as fees, rent and
groceries were covered, while she cut out items
• Pool limited resources. Gail got together
with friends to make sure that her rent and
groceries were covered;
• Using initiative. Gail took it upon herself
to seek out work to finance her study and her
• If possible, continue living in your parents
home and commute to classes every day.
*Not the real name
What is GATE?
The Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses
(GATE) programme is available to all citizens of T&T
pursuing approved programmes, including distance
learning programmes, at local and regional public
tertiary level institutions (TLIs) as well as approved
local private TLIs.
Under the GATE programme, the Government
pays 100 per cent of the tuition fees of qualified stu-
dents at approved public and private, local and re-
gional tertiary level institutions. GATE applies to
tuition fees only.
Duration of GATE funding
GATE funding shall be accessible to students for
the duration of the approved programme. Should
the student fail to complete the approved pro-
gramme within its stated duration, the student shall
not be granted access to GATE funding for any pe-
riod in excess of its standard duration except where
such duration is extended by reason of a leave of ab-
Officials of the funding and grants administration
division (FGAD) shall review an extension of the du-
ration period of an approved programme by reason
of extenuating circumstances on a case-by-case
Sponsorship other than GATE
A student in receipt of sponsorship for tuition
fees---eg scholarships, grants, bursaries---other than
GATE for the academic year or course of study, shall
not be eligible to access additional funding under the
Exceptions to this will be as follows:
• Where the student sponsorship is less than 100
per cent for programmes receiving full tuition,
he/she may be eligible to receive the difference
through GATE for an approved programme;
• Where the student is in pursuit of a course of
study e.g. postgraduate studies and is not in receipt
of funding up to the approved financial support limit,
he/she is eligible for funding to make up the differ-
Students who have been accepted to pursue ap-
proved postgraduate programmes of study at:
• local and regional public TLIs would be eligible to
access grants to cover a of 50 per cent of their tu-
•approved private TLIs would be eligible to access
grants to cover up to 50 per cent of their tuition
fees to a maximum of $10,000.00; and to a maxi-
mum of $5,000.00 for approved Distance Learning
Students accessing GATE will be required to sign
a student agreement as part of the application.
Grounds for termination of GATE
Breach of student agreement
Any breach of the student agreement or with-
drawal from the programme by failure on his/her
part to attain the required performance standard as
established with respect to the specified pro-
gramme, will deny the student further eligibility for
funding by the Government unless approved by the
In the event that the student:
• abandons his/her course; or
• fails to obtain the qualification where such fail-
ure is due to the student not applying himself/her-
self diligently to his/her studies; or
• fails to accept employment in the public or the
private sector in the Republic of T&T after the con-
clusion or termination of the said programme for
the specified period of time.
All monies expended on his or her programme will
be converted to a loan from the Government and
shall be repaid with interest. The student binds him-
self/herself and agrees that he/she shall be liable
immediately to refund to the Government the total
amount of the loan made to him/her.
Source: Ministry of Education
Life without GATE
Past student shares financial lessons from tertiary years
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