The Bryan-Roach campaign issued a release late Tuesday reminding residents that they’ve had as part of their platform since earlier this year a plan to offer high school graduates a free college education. The release comes on the heels of Governor Kenneth Mapp’s and the University of the Virgin Islands’ historic announcement at Government House on Tuesday, where a free college tuition measure called the Virgin Islands Workforce Development Scholarship Program was unveiled.
“The Bryan-Roach team believes that making higher education more accessible and affordable to our people is critical to improving the quality of life in our community,” Mr. Bryan said. “That is why this principle was included in our campaign’s education platform published at the beginning of this year.”
Speaking during a Virgin Islands Political Consortium interview on Tuesday night, Mr. Bryan said he would encourage his running mate Tregenza Roach to block the governor’s measure, as Mr. Roach has authorship of a similar bill that seeks to achieve the same goal. According to the Bryan-Roach campaign release, Mr. Roach first introduced Bill No. 30-0031 which seeks to create what is called the Virgin Islands Fund for Higher Education, in March 2013. He has since reintroduced the bill in the 32nd Legislature and maintains authorship to the legislation, according to the release.
“Since day one of this campaign, we have vigorously pursued an initiative to offer tuition free higher education at the University of the Virgin Islands. It is one of the initiatives that helped forge the partnership between Tregenza and me,” Mr. Bryan said. “During our presentations over the last year, we told our audiences that we had costed the tuition free program out at approximately $3 million a year to put this program in place for eligible students. The governor’s proposal is eerily similar to the Senator’s bill and to our platform, so we are pleased that he has taken yet another one of our initiatives to incorporate into his pre-election campaign tour. But of course, the devil is always in the details. We look forward to reviewing the bill that will be sent down to the legislature.”
The governor’s plan accepts students with a 2.0 grade point average or higher, while the Bryan-Roach plan requires students to achieve a 3.0 grade point average or higher.
The Bryan-Roach campaign provided the following excerpt explaining how their program would be funded: “To truly transition to a more educated community, we can and should offer free college tuition at the University of the Virgin Islands for local high school graduates that maintain a 3.0 grade point average. When former President Barrack Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders proposed free higher education, they were ridiculed by stateside conservatives, but it makes good policy sense. The Government of the Virgin Islands’ fiscal year 2017 executive budget appropriated $32.2 million for the university and $36 million for the Bureau of Corrections. By reducing expenditures of one agency, while increasing spending on the other, we can make a college education more attractive and accessible to our young people. It is time to end the era of mass incarceration and initiate the era of mass education in the Virgin Islands.”