Post-graduation fees at CASE spark squabble
Graduates of the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) are fuming after the Portland school belatedly applied miscellaneous fees to their accounts and threatened to withhold their bachelor’s degree certificates until the balances are...
Graduates of the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) are fuming after the Portland school belatedly applied miscellaneous fees to their accounts and threatened to withhold their bachelor’s degree certificates until the balances are cleared.
On Friday, three of at least seven students affected by the decision slammed the institution’s “unethical” action.
Noting that they completed their programmes in May 2022, cleared their balances and graduated in November, the students said they were told only last month that they must pay $18,500 to get the documents.
The certificates were reportedly not ready at that time of the ceremony. Students were subsequently advised in an email on January 10 that they were ready for pickup.
A week later, on January 17, the graduates said that outstanding balances began appearing on several accounts.
They said checks with the school resulted in the stalemate.
Dr Derrick Deslandes, president of CASE, said that a “significant” number of students have outstanding balances.
Deslandes disclosed that the miscellaneous fees were due and requested in September. However, he said auditors picked up an “oversight” and revealed that students had not been charged the fees for their final year.
He said CASE has no choice but to apply the charges retroactively since the school had covered upfront medical, insurance and other student costs.
“The students pursued the Bachelor of Agricultural Education degree in the Faculty of Food and Agriculture and graduated in 2022. The students’ accounts were audited to determine if financial clearances can be granted for the degrees to be issued,” Deslandes said in response to Gleaner queries on Monday.
“The audit revealed that they were not billed the miscellaneous costs for 2021-2022 academic year, which include registration fee, lab fee, student council fee, insurance, facilities fee, etc. These costs are mandatory and must be paid by all students.”
The miscellaneous fee for the academic year is $27,750, but Year Two, Deslandes said, had only two semesters, so the cost was prorated and applied accordingly. That amounted to $18,500, or $9,250 per semester.
But Crystalee Carter-Reid, who completed her degree in agricultural education, called CASE administrators “unprofessional”, claiming that there was no formal communication to students about the matter.
“We were just making plans to go and collect our degrees and one of my classmates called me to ask me to check my account to see if it was added,” she told The Gleaner.
“When we reached out to the college, we were told that they had an oversight, and they did not add miscellaneous fee for the second year. And so, after eight months of completing the course, they just added the money to the account,” she added.
Carter-Reid said efforts to speak with Deslandes, through his office, were futile because “he was never available”.
“I feel like if this is an oversight on their part, some meeting should be called with the students and we come to an agreement as to how this should be settled, because we pay what they asked us to pay,” she said.
The educator said not having the degree will prevent her from being duly compensated as a trained teacher.
“Everyone is asking for a degree as a minimum requirement for employment,” she said, while calling for the Ministry of Education to intervene.
Rosheda Williams, who completed an Associate of Science degree in agricultural education, said she contacted CASE’s finance department early January to enquire of her balance and was informed that she owed $107.
She said that that was cleared on January 6.
She, too, was later advised that she owed the institution.
“I told them that’s not ethical and that’s not how I expect things to be done. If you observe an oversight on your part, I would expect that you gather us as a very small batch and have a conversation. But that was not done.
“Being that it’s an oversight on their part, then maybe the college should absorb that because I bent over backwards to ensure that I paid,” Williams said.
But Deslandes, in a follow-up statement to The Gleaner, said that cannot be done.
“The college absorbing costs for services that are provided to students is not practical or realistic because these costs have already been expended.
“We understand their viewpoints on the matter, but the degrees cannot be issued until their accounts are cleared,” he said.
The third student who spoke to The Gleaner said that he has since settled the balance because he needed the certificate for his job.