Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, says officials at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College (SVGCC) should apologise to the nation in light of the admission by Minister of Education, Girlyn Miguel, that none of the college’s associate degree programmes are accredited.
“I think the people at the college owe the nation an apology for the amount of lies that were told on that matter,” Eustace said on his New Democratic Party’s radio programme on Tuesday.
“People have spent hard-earned money in difficult economic and financial circumstances to give their children a better start in life in terms of university education only to find out you are doing it on a false premise. I take very strong objection to that,” Eustace said.
His comments came one day after Miguel told parliament that the associate degrees at the college only have pre-accreditation.
The revelation, during her response to a question from Eustace, came one year after a firestorm erupted after Eustace questioned publicly the status of the associate degree programme at the post-secondary institution.
In his question on Monday, Eustace asked Miguel to tell lawmakers how many of the 22 associate degrees at the college are accredited.
Miguel said that accreditation is a relatively new process in the Caribbean, adding that none of the community colleges in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean are accredited and this is the case in most of the region.
Speaking on the path to accreditation in SVG, Miguel said that in 2012 the SVGCC began the process of seeking institutional accreditation from the National Accreditation Board of SVG.
In November 2013, the SVGCC was granted pre-accreditation status through its successful registration with the National Accreditation Board, she said.
On Sept. 8 this year, the board began carrying out a series of visits to the college, which will end in October.
“Following these visits, the Community College will continue on its self study, which is aimed at strengthening its policies and procedures to ensure that quality is maintained in all of its operations.
“The results of the national accreditation board visit will guide this process. Until this process is complete and the national accreditation board awards accredited status to the Community College, the institution cannot be described as an accredited one and neither can its associate degrees be described as accredited.
“Mr. Speaker, Honourable members, I wish us to understand that the process of accreditation cannot be rushed,” Miguel told Parliament.
In a supplementary question, Eustace said that the bottom line of the question is how many associate degrees at the SVGCC are accredited, whether it is institutional or otherwise.
“Honourable Member, I just explained that the college has pre-accreditation status but the process continues and until the board tell us, then that it would be,” Miguel said.
Eustace responded: “None are accredited? That is the bottom line question.”
“Honourable member, I think I have spoken simple English,” Miguel said.
“We are pre-accredited so none are accredited,” Eustace said in response.
Speaking on his New Democratic Party’s radio programme on Tuesday, Eustace said that there is no particular benefit in terms of discounted time at university for students with associate degrees issued by the Community College.
“They don’t have less time, they don’t get a year off or anything like that, in terms of their university degree, which is the story they (college officials) were giving people all along. And that is why we had raised it last year.
“And now you have an admission that none — I thought that at least some were accredited. But the Minister of Education is saying that none of the 22 is accredited,” Eustace said.
“And those parents have spent a lot of money on those courses in the belief that their children will get off something in terms of their university training. And we find out yesterday, for the first time — and this is the point we have been making for months, for more than a year and you can’t get information, all you are getting is false information from the college itself. All kinds of stories which they knew were not true. And now that the question is put definitively to the Minister of Education, who is Deputy Prime Minister, we are finding that they are not accredited.”
“This is a terrible thing,” Eustace said, adding that people have spent between EC$8,000 and EC$9,000 to finance the associate degrees.
“… and what do you get for it?” he said, adding that students were told they will get discount on the time they spend in university doing degrees or at least in some of the courses.
“Now, it seems that you will not have it in any of the 22 courses that are being offered by the Community College at this time,” he said.