Following calls from parents’ organizations for the Ministry of Education to refrain from institutionalizing increases in college tuition fees, students’ and teachers’ groups have added their voices during a protest against the price hikes yesterday.
Holding up signs reading “Education is not for sale” and “Tuition costs should not be increased,” representatives from the National Federation of Teachers’ Unions (NFTU) and student associations from several universities across the country protested at a news conference held at the Legislative Yuan where the ministry outlined proposals to institutionalize tuition fee structures.
According to the ministry’s proposal, the tuition costs for freshmen students at public universities may be raised by up to 10 percent, while the tuition for sophomore, junior and senior students at public universities — as well as for all private university students — may be increased by 5 percent as early as next year.
NFTU deputy secretary-general Lo Te-shui (羅德水) said that the ministry had called several meetings over the past five months to discuss the issue.
“The only consensus that has been reached during the five-month period was ‘no consensus,’” Lo said. “If the ministry wants to find more money for universities, they should ask for a bigger budget from the government or more tax from big corporations rather than by exploiting students who are the most disadvantaged group of people in the system.”
Lo said many students go to college on student loans, and “they end up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt when they graduate, but they are confronted by starting salaries as low as NT$22,000 a month.”
“I’m really worried how young people will survive in this society with the ministry trying to charge them more to go to school,” he added.
Besides expressing their anger over the proposal, representatives from student groups protested that the ministry did not consult them as stakeholders in the decisionmaking process.
“We were invited to take part in meetings called by the ministry on the tuition issue and we thought we were there to present the students’ perspective on the issue,” United Student Union of North Taiwan convener Lin Chia-hsing (林家興) said.
“But when we were there, we realized that about 90 percent of the participants were school presidents and academics favoring tuition increases. We were merely there to endorse their decision,” Lin said.
National Tsinghua University Graduate Student Association president Chang Tao-chi (張道琪) said there was no definite conclusion at the meeting to raise tuition fees.
“Although I took part in the meeting, I learned later that the ministry decided to institutionalize increases in tuition and has since come up with the exact percentage it plans to increase fees by,” Chang said.