USM board ‘extremely happy’ that Jacobs gets rescue budget


PHILIPSBURG–The University of St. Martin (USM) board said on Tuesday that it was “extremely happy” that Education Minister Silveria Jacobs managed to secure funds for a rescue budget for the institution.

Board Vice-President Wycliffe Smith told Members of Parliament (MPs) during a meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament that the board had looked at the proposal for a rescue budget and had sent its comments to the Minister.
“It’s a memorandum of understanding (MOU) allocating funds for the rescue budget. We are extremely happy that the Minister has been able to find funding for the rescue budget,” he said. “This will help us with one semester, but we need to seek the structural funding, which will take place hopefully after the auditing by [Government Accounts Bureau – Ed.] SOAB and further talks with the Minister.”
In an effort to keep the doors of USM open, Jacobs recently submitted a proposal to USM that includes granting the institution incidental subsidy amounting to NAf. 690,000 to 920,000 over a three- to four-month period. The Council of Ministers agreed to the proposal. The move is to prevent closure of the institution and to prepare for the continuity of the university in a transparent, accountable, efficient and effective manner.
According to the MOU, the Ministry will issue an immediate injection of NAf. 230,000 to jumpstart the semester for all students as soon as possible; will grant two more monthly instalments of NAf. 230,000 with possibility of granting one additional month during the semester if advised and concluded by the SOAB reports.
USM will cooperate with SOAB to carry out its investigation to validate the pending (2013-2016) financial statements as well as provide recommendations to the board and Ministry aimed at effective and efficient management of USM board.
Also included in the MOU is that the USM board will provide all necessary pending documents required to substantiate the requested increase in subsidy for 2018 so that SOAB can submit the advice as soon as possible to secure the approval of the necessary funding for the continuity of USM, and that the Ministry will prioritise the finalisation of the Ordinance for Higher Education.
During Tuesday’s meeting Smith and other members of the board responded to questions posed by MPs during the start of the meeting.
Smith took the opportunity to underscore on several occasions the importance of the speedy finalisation of the law on tertiary education and expressed hope that MPs will be instrumental in ensuring that the law is approved and passed post-haste. He said the finalisation of the law would ensure that USM receives structural funding.
MPS were told that USM’s financial troubles began long ago and requests for increases in subsidy had been made in the past spanning several governments. The institution had successfully sought external sponsorship, but sponsors indicated that they will no longer be able to support USM after Hurricane Irma and said they believed this was Government’s responsibility.
MPs were told during the meeting that many students had been left in limbo awaiting definite word on whether the institution would close or not. Students who are non-nationals have not yet left the country to continue their studies elsewhere. The board said USM will have to reimburse students who had already paid for the semester, as it was their obligation to do so.

Source: The Daily Herald