Van den Assem: USM’s future looks bright despite acute financial problemsPOSTED: 06/18/12 1:08 PM
St. Maarten – “It has not been an easy year, but it’s going in the right direction.” That sums up the core message that President of the University of St. Martin Annalies van den Assem brought to Saturday night’s 18th commencement at Westin Dawn Beach Resort and Spa.
The statement comes almost a year to the day she stood on a platform of the very same resort and said that the university was challenged. This year she delivered her message at the end of a difficult year the ends with the university still having acute financial issues that lead to faculty often being paid late. The good news was that many of the financial issues have and are being dealt with and the university’s structural long term future looks better.
“Are we completely out of the woods? No, not yet. But there are intense discussions on structural solutions. There are still acute financial problems that do not allow us to make timely payments to our staff and faculty,” van den Assem revealed.
That lack of timely payments however has not deterred the staff and faculty from continuing to keep the institution up and running and allowing students to continue with their studies uninterrupted.
A key part of the structured solution is the promotion of e-learning as this is more cost effective for the university. USM will also pursue more relationships with universities in the region and further afield.
“Worldwide educational institutions are extending the hand to each other so education can continue,” the university president stressed.
The university has also met with and reached agreement with officials in St. Martin (French side). The talks are based on and will be guided by the Declaration of Intent that was signed by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, former President of the Collectivité Frantz Gumbs and Prefet Delegue for St. Martin and St. Barthelemy Phillipe Chopin.
Van den Assem was pleased to report on Saturday that former Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Dr. Rhoda Arrindell, the current Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Silveriua Jacobs, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Members of Parliament have all stressed that they “will not allow USM to under.” That support was reflected in the speeches both Wescot-Williams and Jacobs gave.
“The government pledges to support USM to help it grow to what it wants to be – a university that people will clamor to attend and one that serves its people and others who wish to come here,” Jacobs said.
Prime Minister Wescot-Williams sees the government’s support as part of a wider strategy to increase the number of people in the country that have college degrees.
“We are awaiting the outcome of the 2011 population census, however a study conducted on St. Maarten in terms of the various needs within our communities has revealed that the percentage of college graduates on the island is low. And so tonight as we celebrate the achievement of these men and women I want the students, the University of St. Maarten, the community and the Government of St. Maarten to commit to increasing the amount of people on St. Maarten who have a college degree. If forty-three can do it how many more can. If one can make the sacrifice to make it happen then one should encourage one’s peers to do the same,” Wescot-Williams said.
She’d go on to state, “For each diploma or certificate that is received there is an elevating of the level of society of St. Maarten and we need to elevate the level of education on St. Maarten in all districts and that is my challenge to us all here tonight. Recognize the challenge that is out there and recognize how far St. Maarteners can go if given the opportunity. Together with government, the communities and private individuals and businesses I believe we can make that a reality. We can realize the goal of having a high level of educated individuals within the communities without them having to leave our shores.”