Dr Janet B. Smith advocates increased income for HLSCC through tuition!
The occasion was the 25th Annual Frederick Pickering Memorial Lecture which took place at the Eileene L. Parsons Auditorium, at the HLSCC last evening, January 15 2013. Dr. Smith is perhaps best known in the Virgin Islands (VI) for her significant continuing contribution to the VI’s tertiary education efforts in the form of the HLSCC.
Dr. Smith earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from Inter-American University in Puerto Rico; then on to the University of Alberta in Canada and Michigan State University in the United States. She holds a Master’s degree in Counseling with internship completed at Institute for Crippled and Disabled of Bellevue Hospital in NY; and a doctorate degree in Educational Psychology, with specialties in Educational Measurement and Child Development.
Dr Smith related at the lecture, “While it may not be the most popular approach, I also think that the College should have an opportunity to increase its income from student tuition.”
According to Dr Smith, the HLSCC should eventually be able to expand select areas of its offering, areas that are not available elsewhere, to other areas of the Caribbean at a cost that the market would bear. "We don’t have to charge the same tuition to others as we charge to ourselves, even if we’re doing it by distance learning," she said while suggesting that the College would need to be very conscious of competition from other sources for these markets.
She further proposed that the Tuition Assistance programme should be examined. “Can the government afford to continue this level of investment in higher education?” she asked before adding that this becomes a critical question. Other questions she proposed with regard to student tuition included: What is the level of commitment and participation by students who enrol as a result of this opportunity and for those who use the programme effectively? Can they be assisted in other ways? What are the criteria for student participation? A host of questions arise, she noted.
She believed that the college had a bright future ahead and needs champions to stand behind it. Many of these champions, she asserted, will emerge from the prudent and effectiveness of the college in preparing persons who increase the bottom line of business and industry sectors. It will come from among its most successful students and satisfied employees. These are the persons she described as ‘marketing champions’.
Another critical issue, she disclosed, was the need for ‘policy champions’. “Perhaps I’m bold enough to suggest that consideration should be given to levying a number of tax-like structures to support education in the Territory.” Dr Smith offered the example of Florida and other states in the US having education supported by the lottery.
“What I call an ‘education investment tax’ of some kind could be levied on corporations and new business ventures entering the Territory, this way new business can participate in ensuring readily available and trained personnel for themselves as well as access to higher education for their employees and others in the BVI.” She explained that it may be a long shot and might need to emerge from a regional rather than national strategy. It might also require the cooperation between community college organisations and the national governments and many others but it is an option.
Government funding is not likely to be at the ‘hundred percent level’ as it was when the college first started. “If we expect the same level of all the infrastructural needs of the community with a population that is much bigger and very different than in the past, needing a very different level of social services, healthcare, safety, etc. the College and perhaps other bodies may well expect to see themselves shifted from government supported to government assisted.”
Dr Smith added, “I think we’ve been government supported and we’ve kind of gotten used to that.” The shift, she noted, would take time and also be a little painful; but she recommended looking at models not only in the United States (US), but also in other countries in order to come up with a realistic funding model for this college.
“We need to continue to take a good hard look at the kind of students that are attending [community colleges], what their motives are, what their aspirations are, their needs and their goals,” Dr Smith expressed.
According to Dr. Smith, a lot of the assumptions made about the commonality and the coherence of community college students are really “not very accurate”. Dr Smith indicated that they require a lot more case management; it’s not simply like a university where you just advise students.
“I believe that we do a tremendous job of helping students prepare to move on to universities. I believe that the college is committed to having the same level of success in helping students identify careers that may or may not be white collar in nature but are just as, if not sometimes not more essential, to the economic development of the Territory.
Some of these jobs pay quite well she said, but it entailed a selling job that community colleges have to do. “It’s a prejudice that we have to be careful about what kind of jobs are better than others… therefore what kind of programmes are better than others.”
In building programmes like this, our best approach, Dr Smith related, was to work with the occupations involved. She cited examples such as the vocations of a plumber, electrician and doctor’s assistant. “Technology is now involved… more involved than it used to be and so I want to be sure that that’s done well.”
In this regard, she continued, marketing what the College does and can do to assist businesses and agencies is critical.
Another key area highlighted was that of achieving adequate and predictable financing for college; in both the short and long term, she said, it is undoubtedly the most important issue on everyone’s mind. "The accrediting agency will look at this very closely, second only to student outcomes, when it visits in 2015," Dr Smith expressed.
With regard to the College being a very essential part of the VI community, she recommended that a guaranteed funding level be determined for the HLSCC. She posited that this should be done on a priority and needs-based level for the community. She alluded that this ensured “that at least the College is going to get a 65-75-85 [percentile] funding level of whatever its needs are every year.
Additionally, Dr Smith felt that the accountability performance level was a reasonable expectation and added that the College was making strides in this area. “It no doubt has the opportunity to be part of a voluntary framework for the accountability project that is sponsored by the Association of Community Colleges… these measures could well be translated as part of a funding model or at least it is a good place to start.”