Sun, Jul 24, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Education ministry ripped for tuition flip-flop

CAVE-IN Schools and students alike criticized the ministry for shortening the list of schools approved for tuition hikes, saying the move was disrespectful and arbitrary

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Education's change of heart on tuition hikes has drawn fierce criticism, both from schools who are now not permitted to raise fees, and students who say the ministry is too influenced by politics.

Bowing to pressure from the Executive Yuan, the Ministry of Education (MOE) abruptly bumped eight colleges and universities from the list of those approved to raise tuition fees this year. The sudden move, which was completed by Friday, shortens the list of approved institutions from 18 to 10.

Two universities that were removed from the list protested that they have not increased their tuition fees for four years, and should therefore be allowed to hike fees. Red-faced ministry officials later acknowledged, after double-checking their records, that they had made a mistake by freezing tuitions for those two universities.

But they said they will now resort to "moral suasion" by pleading with the two schools not to raise tuition this year.

The ministry's flip-flop drew criticism from universities that were removed from the list and student groups, who said the decision highlighted the ministry's disrespect for its own review committee and its tendency to cravenly succumb to political pressure.

"The Executive Yuan should respect the decision made by the ministry's review committee. The ministry should not reverse its policy and cut down the list just because government officials asked them to," said Hsiao Jie-fu (蕭介夫), president of National Chung Hsing University.

According to Hsiao, among all the research universities, National Chung Hsing University has the lowest tuition fees, and that even with their proposed 5 percent increase, its tuition would still remain the lowest. The ministry should provide a better explanation of why it first told the school after a careful review that it could raise fees, and then suddenly changed its mind.

Wu Yan-hua (吳妍華), president of National Yang Ming University, which was also removed from the list, joined in criticizing the ministry.

"Ministry officials called to apologize for the change, saying that the Executive Yuan asked the ministry to cut down the list. If the decision can be so easily changed, then why does the ministry bother forming a review committee?" she said.

There were originally 63 colleges and universities which planned to raise their tuition fees this year. After student groups' strong protest against tuition hikes, the review committee, which is made up of students, parents and business representatives, approved tuition hikes at 23 schools.

Facing strong criticism from Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislators, however, Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) later promised that the ministry would approve tuition increases for no more than 20 schools.

The ministry ultimately did even better by the legislators, giving permission to just 18 colleges and universities. But then it issued an updated press release announcing that eight of the schools were not allowed to increase fees after all, explaining that the decision was necessary in order to comply with the new policy of Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) to maintain overall price stabilization after the recent typhoon and flooding struck the nation.

Surprisingly, rather than applauding the ministry's limitation on tuition hikes, student groups frowned upon the ministry's about-face.

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