Published on Barbados Today, 31 December 2018
A large portion of the estimated $100 million injection into the local economy from the presence of the Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) will go toward their housing accommodation at the sprawling Villages at Coverley. Students are to pay between US$4,040 and US$4,840 per semester or BDS$2020-$2420 each month per student.
Each unit at Coverley is set up to accommodate three or four students, this means each student will be paying over US$1,000 in rent per month for the four months of each semester.
This could easily translate into more than US$4 million per semester or over US$12 million per year in rent for the approximately 1,000 registered students assuming the minimum three-student occupancy and the lowest associated rent.
And the students are expressing disappointment at the apparent ‘mandatory’ arrangement which gives them no leeway to find competitive lodging on their own.
According to irate students, the university is requiring “all full-time students enrolled in the Medical Sciences 4- or 5-semester curriculum, to reside in RUSM on-campus housing, located at the Villages at Coverley”. This was not the case when they attended the school based in Dominica said the irate returning student, livid at the change of process.
According to the RUSM website, there are four options for accommodation within the Coverley community, ranging from three-bedroom units and four-bedroom units, with shared or private bathrooms, with prices from US$4,040 to US$4,840 per semester, per student.
There are also three-bedroom family units, which will be rented for US$8,640 per semester.
According to the university, “Rent includes property management, exterior and interior maintenance, personal property insurance, deep cleaning between each semester, Wi-fi, trash pickup, monthly utility allotment (water, electric and sewer), parking and gym membership.”
“Non-student companions approved to share a bedroom in a general student unit pay US$500/semester amenities and administration fee,” it added.
Barbados TODAY investigations revealed that some students were either not willing to pay the price being asked or simply wanted to live elsewhere on island and had therefore applied for housing exemption but were not approved and told that “there is not an appeals process”.
According to the RUSM Housing Exemption request form “A student may be granted an exemption to this requirement by the Associate Dean of Student Affairs or designee. All requests are processed on a case-by-case basis.”
Barbados TODAY understands that some students had raised concerns about the pricing while a handful of them had applied for “housing exemption”, meaning they would prefer to rent accommodation elsewhere so they could have the full “island experience” while living amongst regular residents ‘like we did in Dominica’.
According to concerned students, who wished not to be identified, living arrangements in Dominica were different, and on-campus housing could go from US$450 to over US$650 per month per student, while off-campus rent could reach over US$800. Each student had the option of renting solo.
The students said they simply felt “entrapped”, explaining that they were initially told that living at the Villages at Coverley was not mandatory, but this later changed.
“After all our [proposed] hosts submitted all their very personal information that Ross asked for to house us – citizenship proof, passport information – then they denied everyone,” the students complained.
Students seeking to get housing exemptions in Barbados for the Spring 2019 semester had to fully complete and submit a form along with supporting documents by November 25, 2018.
However, any current or incoming students who were not granted housing exemption “will be assigned on-campus housing automatically and charged accordingly”, the form stated with the warning that “Decisions made by the Housing Exemption Committee are final.”
Information provided on the form as reasons for exemption include: accompanying companions/dependents whose needs cannot be met by RUSM Student Housing; local national or living with local family in Barbados; medical reason and/or disability that cannot be accommodated within the RUSM on-campus housing.
Following Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Dominica in September 2017, Adtalem Global Education, the parent company of RUSM, agreed to host the students at the Villages at Coverley come January 2019.
Between September 2017 and December 2018, continuing students, most of whom are from the US and Canada, were being housed between Knoxville, Tennessee and St Kitts, where they were said they also had “the freedom of choice”.
They said since raising the concern about accommodation costs and not being able to freely choose where to live, the university has been less than accommodating.
They said the “RUSM in Knoxville” Facebook page, where they also aired their concerns, was deleted.
“Our concerns are usually never resolved. We are always told that we are complaining too much and that we ‘should be grateful that Ross is providing’ these things for us,” said one student.
“Not only are we not given the choice, but this also hurts the rental property owners of the area that will not benefit from students being able to use their properties to accommodate their personal lifestyle,” the student added.
In addition to accommodation, students also pay tuition fee of more than US$23,000, US$700 in health insurance and a student services fee of US$900. There is a one-time application fee of US$250, electronic materials fee of US$400 and pet fee of US$500.
When Barbados TODAY reached out to officials of Adtalem Global Education regarding the students’ concerns, the university did not directly answer the questions posed.
However, in a short response, the officials said “very few” students applied for housing exemption from among the more than 1,000 registered.
“The Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) is a modern living-learning community. As such, RUSM students are enthused about our new Barbados instructional campus, housing and neighbourhood amenities. Because access to living-learning communities are preferred by many students, they are not unusual as a resource for the first two years of graduate medical education,” the statement said.
“RUSM implemented an exception process for those few students with other needs. All requests for exemption are individually reviewed; there have been very few among our (more than) 1,000 students registered,” it added, without saying if any, or how many students were granted exemption.
“I don’t think Ross can dictate where US, Barbados or other nationals can live. They kept changing the rules, got our hopes up then denied nearly 100 per cent,” one student told Barbados TODAY.
It was during a press conference in August that Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that the relocation of the Ross University to Barbados should result in a $100 million injection into the local economy.
Besides rentals, the Massy Supermarket in Coverley is also in line to benefit significantly from the students’ grocery shopping.
In addition to the over 1,000 students, some 100 faculty and 200 administrative support staff are to also find accommodation at the Coverley development.
It is not immediately clear how much money has been spent on the development of the school itself to be located at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
The school’s official opening will take place on Saturday, January 5, 2019.