Thu, Jul 17, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Fees are reasonable, premier says

WITHIN RANGE Tuition costs at Taiwanese higher education institutes did not change in 1999 and 2000 and rose only slightly from 2001 to this year

CNA , TAIPEI

Groups opposed to planned tuition fee hikes stage a protest in front of the Presidential Office yesterday. The placard on the top reads, ``Spare the children!''

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Premier Yu Shyi-kun said yesterday that the tuition fees of local universities are reasonable in comparison with international levels.

Yu said at a Cabinet meeting that the government pays close attention to the welfare of students from low-income families and those of minority groups.

Referring to discussions about tuition fee hikes by several public and private universities in the coming semester, the premier said that the Ministry of Education has sought to keep the hikes within "a certain range" so as not to increase the financial burden on the families of university students.

According to Yu, prior to 1998, the fees of public universities increased by an average of 10 percent annually, while those of private universities rose by an annual 3 percent on average. In 1999 and 2000, no adjustments were made and hikes in 2001 to this year were an average 3 percent annually for public universities and 0.04 percent on average for private universities.

Statistics released by the ministry indicate that the tuition fees of public universities and colleges range from NT$21,000 to NT$37,000 per semester, while those of private universities and colleges range from NT$41,000 to NT$67,000.

Reporting at the meeting, Minister of Education Huang Jong-tsun (黃榮村) said that university tuition fees are "comparatively lower than in many countries in the world."

In Europe, where higher education is free, the average tax payment accounts for 40 percent of the per capita income, while in Taiwan, taxation represents 17 percent of personal income on average, according to Huang.

The minister added that it is impossible for the government to make higher education free unless it can find sufficient financial resources.

To offer free higher education, the government would need to budget NT$80 billion annually to subsidize the 160 universities and colleges, he said.

The minister said that this year, the ministry has doubled the amount of scholarships for students from low-income families, with a total of NT$10 billion budgeted for this purpose.

In the autumn semester starting September, 18 public universities and colleges, mostly national universities, will increase their tuition fees by between 1 percent and 9.5 percent, while two private universities will raise fees by 5 percent.

A civic group -- the Anti-High Tuition Action Alliance -- has appealed to the education authorities for more financial assistance for university and college students from low-income families.

A spokesman for the alliance said the government should subsidize students from families with no regular incomes for the full amount of tuition, while the interest rates on student loans should be cut further.

He suggested that business and industry, which benefit from the high-quality labor force trained through government budget, should pay business-profit tax, with the revenue raised to be used specifically for educational purposes.

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