Sat, Jul 19, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Chen accuses KMT of exploiting tuition issue

FEE INCREASES The president, addressing students at an education expo, said the opposition's efforts to protest against tuition hikes are designed to stir unrest

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

With the KMT initiating a campaign to oppose high tuition fees, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday that politicians should not exploit the issue to sow discord among different social classes and instigate ideological confrontations.

"If the public reads carefully my statements on the `A-bian Talk' [the president's weekly electronic letter to the public] published on both June 12 and July 17, there shouldn't have been misunderstanding about my stance on the nation's tuition policy. The politicians shouldn't have manipulated the education issue to create social unrest," Chen said yesterday.

Chen made the statements while addressing the opening yesterday of the annual University Exposition held to offer college entrants a chance to shop around and choose their desired schools and colleges.

"I've said that since the narrow college entrance system has been loosened, the government will not sit idle about the subsequent rise of tuition fees for higher education. Instead it would try all sorts of solutions," he said.

"Education is the best way to avoid poverty. ? The government and schools are obligated to offer opportunities for students to complete their education. The schools ought to draw up financing plans for students such as offering on-campus part-time jobs or company internship opportunities," Chen said.

He warned that the opposition's move was not conducive to solving the problem.

The KMT legislative caucus began a campaign yesterday to circulate a petition demanding the government implement education loans with zero interest.

The petition accuses the government of ignoring the welfare of the dispossessed and claims the government would only need an extra NT$500 million to NT$600 million a year for a zero-interest loan program.

KMT Legislator Kuo Tien-tsai (郭添財) said yesterday the amount is only a small portion of the Ministry of Education's annual budget of around NT$470 billion.

The DPP has proposed several measures to prevent the opposition from exploiting the tuition-fee issue and to reassure the public.

On Wednesday, Premier Yu Shyi-kun asked the country's 28 universities to cancel the tuition increase for the fall semester, and the DPP legislative caucus yesterday proposed prohibiting tuition increases for the next two years at all public institutions for higher-education.

Ministry of Education officials, however, said yesterday that many university authorities have declined Yu's request, saying it had come too late.

Officials said the higher tuition fees for the coming semester have already been finalized and that it is impossible to change them.

"University authorities including National Taiwan University and National Chengchi University have all said if the government wants to reduce tuition, it has to come up with a sound supplementary measure to prevent leaving a financial burden on school authorities," Minister of Education Huang Jong-tsun (黃榮村) said.

Apart from asking universities to stop tuition hikes, the Cabinet yesterday released a series of measures to finance education for students belong to minority groups such as Aboriginals and the disabled.

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