Graduating from high school can be a bittersweet experience for many Jamaican students. Even with good grades and partial or complete scholarships, some students may still be on the fence about going to college or university. This hesitation is not due to a lack of ambition or self-doubt. No, it’s the opposite. 

These ambitious students have a life plan: first, to go to college, then get a job, then buy a car, buy a house, and raise a family. The first step, however, is ‘Go to College,’ which can be the most difficult for them as there are several barriers to accessing education in Jamaica. Let’s discuss some significant barriers Jamaican students face when accessing higher education.

Financial Barriers to Higher Education

One of Jamaica’s fundamental barriers to higher education is the cost of education. Like any other part of the world, teaching in Jamaica is expensive. Though the Jamaican government always allocates finances yearly to the education sector, more is needed to fund tertiary education. Therefore ambitious students from low-income families can still not pay the tuition fees.

Here’s why this happened. During the academic year, the local universities only received contributions from regional governments (43.3 percent) and fundraising and income-earning projects (38.3 percent), unlike some overseas universities that benefit from state funding and endowment funds.

On following up with the UWI Registrar to ascertain whether the campuses were still operating at a deficit, the report via email, dated June 22, 2021, indicated that the UWI, Mona, has worked at a deficit for several years. The Registrar also stated that hundreds of students face difficulty accessing their exams due to financial challenges each semester, and many students get delayed in their studies.

Let’s face it:  attending university is not cheap; however, without a degree, one may encounter difficulties attaining other significant life goals.
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Lack of support from parents and families


The second and most significant barrier to retention and student success in higher education in Jamaica is the need for strong financial support from parents and families. Believe it or not, money makes the world go round, and many promising Jamaica students can only pursue their career dreams with familial financial aid.

Sadly, some Jamaican households sometimes struggle to make ends meet. It is worse that some parents lack post-secondary education or vocational training and cannot get higher-paying jobs. As a result, they have no choice but to accept low-income jobs such as laborers, caregivers, and domestic workers. Consequently, accessing loans and saving for university can take time and effort.

Some students study harder to relieve their parents of the financial burden of post-secondary studies and postpone immediate gratification to get better grades. Unfortunately, even with better rates, students are left behind simply because their families need help to fund their education.

The truth is one household may not be able to finance a child’s education, and ‘it may take a village to raise a child’; that is, it may require the support of extended family members (biological and non-biological) to support a child’s tertiary education.

Students’ Neighbourhoods and Whom They Live With

To make matters worse, single parents from volatile and farming communities sometimes cannot independently support their child’s academic dreams on their meager income. What may seem reasonable for a middle-to-high-income household from a working-class community may be a big deal for low-income family members.

Moreover, some families cannot afford to pay the difference even when students receive partial funding. In contrast, others may be fortunate enough to access full tuition but cannot 4ukey afford the accommodation, food, insurance, textbooks, miscellaneous fees, and school equipment. Consequently, some students end up forgoing tertiary education to free their parents from the financial burden that their studies would bring.

As simple as it may seem, a college education is a gateway to a better future. The chances of getting a job, buying a car, buying a house, and raising a family are much more significant after attaining a tertiary education.

Ways to Lower the Barriers to Higher Education in Jamaica

Most prospective students are concerned about financial aid covering post-high school education costs. As such, the Government needs to address these obstacles to enhance the affordability of tertiary education in Jamaica. Any government or graduate scholarships in Jamaica from potential donors would be significant to eliminate the barriers.

As simple as it may seem, a college education is a gateway to a better future. The chances of getting a job, buying a car, buying a house, and raising a family are much more significant after attaining a tertiary education. However, the question remains: how can we help these young people achieve their dreams? What does the education policy in Jamaica say about this? Are there any scholarships in Jamaica they can pursue? For those looking to expand outside Jamaica, are there scholarships for Jamaican students in the USA or any other part of the world? We need to ask ourselves these questions if we will help these future generations.

We would like to hear from you. What are your thoughts on this?