Wed, Jul 23, 2003 - Page 3 News List

MOE offers more help to students from poor families

STAFF WRITER

The Ministry of Education yesterday announced that it's studying the possibility of reducing tuition fees for college students who come from low-income families, the Chinese-language media reported.

According to the ministry's Department of Higher Education, the government plans to reduce the tuition fees for such students by 50 percent.

Students whose family income is less than NT$1 million a year would be eligible for the program and more than 350,000 students would benefit.

The department said the policy would be launched this fall.

According to the department, 292,390 students from financially-disadvantaged households have applied for student loans -- or 98.4 percent of the total number of applicants for such loans.

Some officials, however, have expressed concern about the plan.

"I'm concerned that we might see some married couples fake a divorce in order to reduce their annual household income below NT$1 million so they could become eligible for the preferential program," said an official at the National Tax Administration, who asked not to be named.

"Legally registered married couples will not be able to file their taxes separately just to become eligible for the preferential tuition program -- unless they're not actually officially registered or go through a fake divorce," the official said.

Although such a scenario is unlikely, the official said the Ministry of Finance would not be able uncover such cases if they occur.

Finance ministry statistics show that there are about 2 million homes nationwide whose annual income is less than NT$1 million.

According to the tax code, married couples should calculate their tax returns separately but file their income tax together.

It is impossible for married couples to file their taxes separately because the tax office checks taxpayers' information with the household registration records of the Ministry of the Interior.

Meanwhile, the education ministry is also studying the possibility of subsidizing the children of unemployed workers who are currently in senior-high school or college, to the tune of NT$2,000 to NT$3,000.

Minister of Education Huang Jong-tsun (黃榮村) yesterday afternoon said that the ministry is spending NT$10 billion to NT$20 billion a year to subsidize students from poor families.

He said that the ministry will spend more on the children of unemployed workers, starting this fall, in order to take good care of those in need.

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