Income-based tuition policy puzzles impoverished students
|Trainee teachers often have low to zero tuition fees, but next term, they will have to pay university fees.—VNA/VNS Photo Phuong Vy|
HA NOI — Family incomes are to dictate a gradual increase in many tuition fees for education and training.
The new fees, part of the Ministry of Education and Training’s budget for renewing funding for education and training until 2012, is to be phased in during the coming academic year.
Under the scheme, school fee exemptions remain for primary education while tuition fees for kindergarten and high school education will not exceed 6 per cent of the average household income. With incomes varying in urban, rural and mountainous regions, the fee would be flexible.
HCM City’s students will pay the highest fees of VND184,000 (US$10) a month. The amount could reach VND355,000 ($19.70) by 2012.
Next are Binh Duong Province and Ha Noi with fees of VND139,000 and VND112,000, which would rise to VND273,000 and VND224,000, respectively.
Students in the northeastern region and the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) will pay the least.
The revised policy on fee aims to increase the proportion of learner contributions to education in order to broaden and improve standards. The State’s budget for education remains at a fifth of total expenditure.
Nguyen Van Ngu, the head of the ministry’s planning and finance department, said the fees weren’t too high and matched families’ abilities to pay but the policy concerned poor residents in big cities, including Tran Ngoc Thanh, a lottery seller in Da Nang City.
He said his family’s income was below average and “It sounds reasonable to set fees on average incomes but our income is hard to compare with that of ordinary people in this city.”
Single mother Do Thi Cuc has a daughter in the 10th grade. “If the State increases fees, I would probably let my child drop out of school,” she said.
Elsewhere in Thai Nguyen Province, Nguyen Dac Nga, the head of the Vocational Training Office under the provincial Education and Training Department, welcomed the policy as an encouragement for children in difficult areas to remain at school.
The rising fees for tertiary education puzzle students from the provinces. Based on subjects, fees for tertiary education will range from VND200,000 to VND800,000 a month.
“The fee of VND180,000 ($10) a month is already hard for poor students like me because, apart from the fees, we have to pay for learning materials and living costs,” said Nguyen Thi Minh Phuong, a student at the Labour and Social Affairs College.
“If the fee is increased to between VND250,000 and VND500,000 a month as scheduled, I don’t know how I will live because the preferential loan I receive remains unchanged at VND800,000.”
Unlike Minh, Tran Thi Ngoc Toan, a student at the National University’s Law Faculty, is willing to pay a higher fee if study conditions improve.
“I wish my university’s library had more reference books and we had foreign visiting lecturers,” Toan said.
More surprised at the regulations are students at colleges for teacher training. Their tuition was free but they face paying about VND200,000 to VND500,000 a month.
“Although it is the lowest level among fees for tertiary education, I see it as unreasonable,” said Nguyen Thi Thanh Minh, a third-year student in the French Language Department of Ha Noi’s National University’s College of Teacher Training.
Minh said many students chose the school because they were too poor to pay fees.
“If the old regulation is aborted, many of my classmates will have to quit,” she said.
The State exempts Minh and those like her from fees if they teach for five years after graduation.
Nguyen Xuan Vang, head of the ministry’s Department for International Co-operation in Training, said tuition fees accounted for 10 per cent of the costs of education.
Vang suggested the ministry give headmasters of universities and colleges the right to set fees for each discipline.
While refusing to comment on the fee adjustments, Nguyen Van Hung, headmaster of the Civil Engineering University, said education was non-profit and the managers should side with learners. —VNS
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