Sun, Jan 07, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Debate on tuition reform heats up at Chengchi University

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Low, government-regulated university tuition rates nationwide are eroding the quality of higher education amid a decades-long influx of students, university presidents said yesterday.

In a heated public debate on tuition reform at Chengchi University, National Taiwan University (NTU) President Lee Si-Chen (李嗣涔) and Shih Chien University President Samuel Chang (張光正), among others, called for the scrapping of tuition rates regulated by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and for allowing free market mechanisms to determine tuition.

"The situation of private universities is like trying to feed four cats with three fish," Chang said, referring to private universities' lack of funding because of MOE-regulated tuition rates that fail to reflect the true cost of an elite education.

Public universities aren't much better off, Lee said.

While the number of public higher education institutions increased from 37 in 1996 to 51 in 2005, with the number of university students skyrocketing from 217,000 to 379,000 during the same period, tuition rates have not risen fast enough to ensure that the exploding student population receives an education on a par with what universities should offer, Lee said.

Government subsidies to universities have not risen fast enough, panelists said.

With 60 percent of high school graduates entering the higher education system, the system is no longer seen as elite, said Lee. It's just another level of education that is open to mediocre students, he added.

Coalition Against High Tuition spokeswoman Chien Shu-hui (簡淑慧) said higher tuition rates would exacerbate a growing rich-poor gap. Chien also challenged Lee's user-pay principle, saying that the "user" in the case of increasingly commercialized higher education was big business, not the student.

In other words, students bear the brunt of the costs at the higher education level, while future "big business" employers reap the rewards of that education.

MOE Department of Technological and Vocational Education Director-General Chang Kuo-bao (張國保) said yesterday that the interests of economically disadvantaged students needed to be protected in any "tuition reform," as proposed by Lee and Chang.

"Determining tuition rates according to free market principles would also involve amending many, many laws," Chang said, adding that such a change would be "extremely complex and controversial."

MOE Department of Higher Education Director-General Chen Te-hua (陳德華) told the Taipei Times that "the conditions aren't ripe for a market reform of tuition rates."

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top