Why investing in college education makes sense even in tough times

Part two

The value proposition in tertiary education in the Cayman Islands.

In the midst of the stock market crash last year a few wise investors looked for bargains to buy stock. Even today with continued economic difficulties, they have seen their investments rise 50 per cent in value since March. Shrewd investors recognise that the best time to buy is when everyone else is selling precisely because prices are low and value is high.  That is why now is the best time for Caymanians to full take advantage of their higher education opportunities. In both the private and public sector working class Caymanians need to up-grade their career skills and get the college degrees they’ll need to compete for that high pay job once global economic conditions permit renewed commercial growth. The secret to prosperity is to buy cheaply now and then leverage your investments once the economy grows.

Fortunately the Cayman Islands posses several excellent tertiary institutions that offer the residents of these islands exceptional value in career education-ICCI, the Law School, and UCCI to mention a few.  The cost of the same education overseas-in the USA, Canada or UK-is three to four times what it cost to earn a bachelor degree at an institution like UCCI. For what it costs the government to offer one student a scholarship to study abroad four Caymanians could study for the very same undergraduate degree right here in Cayman. For working people the local tertiary institution allow them the opportunity to continue earning a living while earning a degree.

For those critics that might say “well you only get what you pay for and overseas university degrees are better-I’d remind them of the generic nature of undergraduate studies in the modern world. The content and professional standards for accounting, chemistry, calculus, management science, finance, law, information technology, etc. are the very same worldwide –as long as these subjects are taught by qualified teachers with the same textbooks the resultant learning is the same. Just as generic drugs contain the exact same chemicals as the much more costly name brands, so too Cayman tertiary education today is the same quality as most any university overseas–only far less expensive.

The faculties at ICCI, UCCI and the Law school are filled with dedicated teachers that hold doctorates and master degrees from most of the world renowned universities. At UCCI most faculty members have years of practical business and government experience to make what they teach relevant and current. The majority of the faculty has taught in other distinguished tertiary institutions around the world. Why then should the people of Cayman pay four or five times more for the exact same education that they can get right at home for a quarter the price?

The benefits of investing now in Tertiary education in Cayman
People often malign the civil servants but all of us who have traveled abroad recognise that compared to almost anywhere else in the Caribbean-the roads here in Cayman are well maintained, the crime in Cayman is still low and controlled, the water is reliable and safe, the public services in Cayman work. One of the major reasons why businesses choose to locate and invest in Cayman and tourists opt to return year after year is because Cayman public services are so good and so modern. Public service –like all good service-depends on trained and dedicated people. We also know that as good as these public services are they could be even better if we had greater professionalization within the ranks of the civil services.

Two years ago the Government initiated the Civil Service College at UCCI to improve the competencies of all public servants but to date this visionary program has not been fully utilised. Therefore as promising as this initiative was it needs renewed effort to realise the dream of a world class public service. Now is the time to ensure that every civil servant who is responsible for public finances has an appropriate certificate or degree (associate or bachelor degree) in accounting. Now is the time to ensure that every public manager working within the government has the advanced education in management science and administration necessary to do more with less. Now is the time to fully professionalize the Cayman Civil Service to standards and levels of excellence seen in Singapore or Ireland or Hong Kong or New Zealand.

While the economic difficulties must be carefully managed by both the private and public sector let’s simultaneously send our as many of our people as possible back to college so that once this economic crisis Cayman is well positioned to grow and prosper again. The solution to opening up more opportunities for all Caymanians is to provide as many Caymanians as possible the 21st century skills they’ll need top compete. As we seek to cut costs, illuminate waste and find new sources of revenue let’s not short change tertiary education-that would be penny wise and pound foolish.



An eye on the UCCI by Robert J Weishan, chair, Department of business studies