Bali college students trade cash for coconuts to pay for tuition

Funding academic endeavors has been a tough nut for students struggling during the pandemic – but an Indonesian college has a refreshing new idea.

Venus One Tourism Academy, a hospitality school in Bali, is making it possible for financially troubled students to pay their tuition in coconuts. The fruits of the tropical palm tree are later pressed into virgin coconut oil, which is sold on campus to generate additional income for the school treasury.

The plan was hatched after management realized the economic woes of COVID-19 risk keeping many of its students out of class. The school first introduced an installment plan where fees were paid in three instalments, before devising what a school administrator called a “flexible” system.

“Initially, we started with an installment payment program [for students] to pay their tuition, but now we’ve become even more flexible. We produce virgin coconut oil and try to get it [students] involved in the production process by paying their tuition only with coconuts,” Wayan Pasek Adi Putra, director of the academy, told local media.

Students can also pay for their graduation with herbs like moringa or gotu kola leaves made into herbal soap. The new payment model is designed not only to help students who are struggling financially during turbulent times, but also to exercise ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit.

“We have to educate [students] to optimize the natural resources around them,” said the executive. “When the pandemic is over, they will enter the hospitality world with different skills.”

Cost is a constant barrier to learning, and the coronavirus pandemic threatens to further affect student education, particularly from low-income families, as the United Nations Children’s Fund warns that at least 24 million people are out of school due to COVID-19 could drop out of school.

From Cairo to California, educational institutions are rethinking their tuition fees, with many continuing to charge full tuition for distance learning while others are opting to hike to stay afloat, much to the dissatisfaction of students and parents. Meanwhile, virtual classes alienate those from underprivileged backgrounds and prevent international students from having a full on-campus experience.

As the pandemic continues to bite the economy harder, job prospects darken and financial challenges take the spotlight as students fail to support themselves while in school or even pay for their courses.

A Study published by the University of Sydney in July paints a bleak picture of the frightening consequences of the pandemic for doctoral students. Researchers reported that 45 percent of over 1,000 Ph.D. The students surveyed expect to “retire from their research within six months” because their wallets have been stretched too thin during the pandemic. Worse, 11 percent are already skipping meals or intend to do so as their finances suffer from a tragic hardship that’s becoming all too common in the wake of the pandemic.

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