More than 100 students, parents, teachers and workers yesterday demonstrated outside the Ministry of Education, protesting against the ministry’s plan to institutionalize college tuition fee adjustments and the cancellation of a public hearing on the issue.
“No to tuition increases,” “Withdraw the proposal or step down,” the protestors shouted.
Minor physical clashes broke out between the police and protestors when Tsai Chung-li (蔡忠利), an official from the ministry’s Department of Higher Education, came out to receive a petition from the protestors, but declined to promise to withdraw the tuition fee adjustment proposal.
The protestors attempted to force their way into the ministry building, but were pushed back by the police.
The angry crowd then threw flyers with their appeals across the ministry’s fence, while pasting tuition payment notices on the fence.
“Tuition should not go up, rather, it should go down,” a National Tsinghua University student, Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) told the crowd. “The government says that it’s facing a budget shortage for education, but we think that budget shortages are happening because the government gives too many tax cuts to big corporatations.”
“Businesses should shoulder the responsibility for training future employees, they should not simply enjoy the benefits of cheap labor,” Chen added.
He said that if the government could levy an extra 2 percent tax from the total annual profit of NT$4.8 trillion (US$145 billion) that big businesses make in Taiwan, “there could be an extra NT$100 billion for education.”
Lo Te-shui (羅德水), deputy secretary-general of the National Federation of Teachers Unions, pointed out that as many as 40 percent of families in the country make less than NT$500,000 a year and that tuition fee hikes may be a big burden on these families.
“The objective of education is to enhance the movement between social classes, and to help students in fulfilling their dreams,” Lo said. “The unequal distribution of education resources is really worrisome.”
Several members of the Hualong Union also took part in the demonstration.
Yeh Chi-chin (葉紫金), a member of the union, said he is a father of two private college students.
“The tuition and other expenses, such as housing for my two kids, is a huge financial burden for me,” he said.
“It’s sad to see students become indebted with student loans as soon as they graduate, but then only make NT$20,000 to NT$30,000 a month,” Yeh added.