Sun, Jul 03, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Students protest against higher school tuition fees

HIKE THIS Students gathered in front of the Ministry of Education yesterday demanding that the government provide more educational support amid escalating costs

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

College students and their supporters protested yesterday outside the Ministry of Education (MOE) against the ministry's policy of tuition hikes, decrying the hikes as the commercialization of education.

Instead of merely offering loans to students to help them cover their education, the protesters said that the government should address the problem of rising costs by levying a tax on businesses and establishing a special educational fund.

Led by the Coalition Against High Tuition in Taiwan, nearly 100 college students and supporters waves posters, chanted slogans and performed a skit during their protest.

"The tuition hike reflects the problem of the commercialization of education and the unfair taxation system. In the long run, [the ministry's] proposed tuition aid will not help the unprivileged," remarked Jian Shu-hui (簡淑慧), the coalition's convener.

The coalition said that it is against placing the burden of increased education costs directly onto students. They demanded that the government create more sources of education funding and called on the ministry to promise not to raise the tuition for the upcoming academic year.

The demand for higher education has accelerated over the years in Taiwan, along with tuition prices. According to ministry statistics released last year, 57 colleges and universities -- both private and public -- have submitted official documents seeking permission to increase tuition, claiming that they did not have budget surpluses in the past three years. With a 5 percent tuition hike, students who go to public colleges will have to pay about NT$1,500 more per semester, and students who go to private colleges will have to pay more about NT$3,000 per semester.

In response to the higher tuition fees in Taiwan, the ministry proposed tuition-aid measures earlier this year to ease college students' financial burden. The ministry announced that it has set aside a total of NT$17.4 billion (US$550.5 million) in scholarship money for college and graduate students. The ministry is also considering a proposal that students who received loans from the ministry to cover their college tuition fees would not have to pay back the money if their annual income lower than NT$240,000 after graduation.

Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) also promised to ask the ministry to extend the college-tuition financing period last month.

The promises from the administration, however, haven't appeased the angry college students.

Liu Hsiong-ya (劉瓊雅), a protesting student from National Chengchi University (NCCU), complained that the school insisted on raising tuition for the upcoming academic year without consulting with students.

"According to the [ministry's] Flexible Tuition Adjustment Plan,universities need to talk to students before any tuition-related decisions are made. However, NCCU did not give us the opportunity to respond to the tuition hike," she said.

In addition to NCCU, about 70 of other institutes of higher education, including National Chung Hsin University, Chung Yuan Christian University and National Taipei University of Technology, also decided to raise their tuition for the coming academic year.

Chen Teh-hua (陳德華), head of the ministry's Department of Higher Education, accepted a petition from protesters yesterday. Chen stressed that compared with other developed countries around the world, Taiwan's college and university tuition fees are fair and reasonable.

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