A Ministry of Education proposal that would raise university tuition by 6 percent this year and as much as 11 percent next year could hurt the nation’s disadvantaged families and social mobility, lawmakers said yesterday.
The ministry has completed a draft that aims to relax a university tuition freeze with a two-phase plan for all public universities and certain private universities to allow them to raise tuition by 6 percent in August, the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) reported yesterday.
However, what concerned the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus the most was the second phase, which would begin in August next year and which would allow all universities to raise tuition by another 5 percent if GDP growth exceeded 3 percent, DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) told a press conference.
“What does the GDP growth rate have to do with students and parents? This is a ridiculous policy that could take away the right to education of students who came from underprivileged families,” Pan said.
Pan, who is also the DPP caucus secretary-general, said the party opposed the policy and viewed Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) as incompetent.
Average household disposable income and average wages have gone down despite the economic growth in recent years, he said, adding that the benefits of GDP growth had not trickled down to the masses.
DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said the conventional belief that higher education could help people achieve social mobility might no longer hold true once the policy is implemented.
While the ministry has said that several subsidy programs are already in place to help low and mid-income households, many financially challenged families are not eligible, Lee said.
The DPP agreed that tuition increases could be discussed, DPP Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said, but linking economic growth with university tuition “makes no sense at all,” as the GDP growth rate does not reflect people’s finances.
Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) also said it was not right to bundle GDP growth with university tuition.
Hsu said the ministry should try to seek corporate support to increase the number of university academic scholarships before raising tuition.