Students, teachers and parents yesterday rallied outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei, condemning the plan of various private universities to raise tuition as “social injustice” and urging the ministry to reject the proposed increase.
“At a time when the starting salary for many college graduates is as low as NT$22,000 [US$740] a month, and the real average wage today is less than it was 16 years ago, we don’t think the tuition should go up; rather, it should go down,” said Hsieh Hui-ting (謝慧霆), a student from National Taiwan Normal University’s Department of Life Sciences.
“We are here to ask Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) to keep the promise he made earlier in the year at the Legislative Yuan to halt an increase in tuition,” Hsieh said.
She said that as higher education has become more like a training ground for large corporates, “the government should consider asking capitalists to pay extra taxes for education budgets.”
Demonstrators representing various universities held signs that read: “We want education, not transaction” and “No increase in salary, no increase in tuition.”
Authorities at Shih Hsin University, Tamkang University, Shih Chien University, Dayeh University and Chung Hua University are considering an increase in fees.
Chen Chiung-ting (陳炯廷), a student from the Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies at Shih Hsin University, said that increasing tuition may not only increase the burden on students, but could be a major trigger in accelerating youth poverty.
“According to official figures released by Shih Hsin University administration, 25 percent of the students have student loans, which means that they may be carrying up to NT$1 million in debt when they walk out of school,” Chen said. “In a way, this is a de facto cut in their salary as they have to repay the loan as soon as they start working.”
National Federation of Teachers’ Unions deputy secretary-general Lo Te-shui (羅德水) said the tuition issue is a class issue.
“College education has become a basic criterion to get a good job. However, students from families of higher socio-economic status are more likely to attend public universities with lower tuitions, while students from lower socio-economic status families are more likely to attend private schools,” Lo said.
“With the tuition hike at private universities, students from economically less well-off families may have to pay more or become indebted with student loans when attending college, leading to delayed or no class movement,” Lo added.
Ministry official Lee Hui-min (李慧敏) accepted the petition from the demonstrators, but only promised that the ministry would be very careful in reviewing applications for tuition increase from universities once it receives them.