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General News of Thursday, 7 May 2015

Source: B&FT

Varsities milk applicants dry

Public universities have sworn to make up for the decline in government subvention, and these days anything goes -- including charging exorbitantly for on-line application scratch-cards when most of the applicants do not even get admitted.

Today most of the applications are either done directly on-line or applicants are asked to download and print application forms at their own cost.

This notwithstanding, the cost of applying to universities in the country, including public ones, has been increasing at a rate that has alarmed many applicants and their families; particularly those with low incomes.

Many people wonder what is peculiar about Ghanaian universities that they have to charge so much as application fees, when most universities globally do not charge a dime for applications.

Ghanaian universities are yet to muster the courage to stop charging application fees even as they have moved away from selling application forms to on-line application platforms.

Currently, scratch-cards to apply on-line for undergraduate programmes at the various public universities go for close to GH¢200 for most of the public universities.

Considering that a good number of applicants apply to a number of universities at the same time, the cost becomes even higher.

“I applied to three universities -- that is KNUST, Legon and UPSA -- and my brother paid almost GH¢600 for that,” said nineteen-year-old Gideon Amartey who is anxiously waiting to go to university. “If I had the money, I would have applied to two others,”he said.

“The transition of application forms from manual to electronic should have lessened the cost, I do not see why it is rather so expensive these days, said Reeves Rhommenze Romeo, a student of one of the universities.

“If the form was hard-copy it is quite understandable (even that should not be expensive, honestly), but it’s electronic now and the price is even higher than when it was manual. I still don't understand; maybe there is a reason for that but for now I don't understand why the fee goes up when it is electronic,” he said.

According to NUGS’ representative on the National Youth Authority, Prince David Orchill, the situation may even compel some potential university goers to settle for the security agencies since they do not have to pay much there.

“We are not very happy with the increasing cost of these scratch-cards. It is not fair. Now they have made the cards so expensive that students spend all their money on registration formalities and are left with no money to pay their fees after they get admitted,” he said.

The universities have argued that in view of dwindling government subvention, they are having to rely on internally generated funds to keep them going.

In its Strategic Plan, spanning the years 2014 to 2024, the University of Ghana says, for example, that its funding sources have changed “significantly” in the last decade since government support has dropped from being more than 90% of its budget to just over 55%.

“The significance of internally generated funds, relying extensively on fees from students, will grow,” it said.