Lowering tuition to be top priority of GNP campaign

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Lowering tuition to be top priority of GNP campaign

A sweeping measure to lower the country’s expensive college tuition will be the top priority of the Grand National Party’s campaign to revamp its plummeting popularity, the acting head of the ruling party said yesterday.

In a meeting with journalists yesterday, Representative Hwang Woo-yea, the new floor leader and acting chairman of the GNP, said all possibilities to lower the burden of tuitions, including a drastic policy of “free tuition” will be reviewed by the ruling party.

“I will bring up the tuition issue in my radio address on Wednesday,” Hwang said. “And I will discuss the specifics with students, parents, universities and the government to come up with the best plan.”

“The current college tuition now reached the point that it is unaffordable by the middle class,” Hwang said, stressing that the issue will be the top priority of the GNP’s welfare programs tailor-made for each generation, along with jobs, childcare, housing rental fees and life after retirement.

Korea is known for what some students call “murderous” tuitions. In the 2009 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Korea’s tuition was ranked the second highest, after the United States.

A report by the Education Ministry released last month showed that the average annual tuition of the 163 four-year private colleges was nearly 7.69 million won ($7,000). The average tuition of the 28 national and provincial universities was 4.43 million won.

Although President Lee Myung-bak had promised during his 2007 election campaign to cut university tuition by 50 percent, no progress has been seen. The “half tuition” policy would require about 6 trillion won in funding.

Hwang said the tuition issue is not just a simple matter of money. “The party and the government see this as an issue about how to design our future.”

Hwang said the people must make a bold decision to cut tuitions. “The philosophy of the country and opinions of everyone involved will be seriously reflected to decide whether the tuitions will be completely free, half of what they are now, or just lowered.”

Hwang said the issue had also been discussed during his meeting with Lee on Friday. “We have said [the administration] should accept the party’s voices to serve the people and we have reached a general consensus. To this end, the tuition issue was specifically discussed,” he said.

During the Blue House meeting, Lee said the new GNP leadership shouldn’t be swayed by the opposition parties’ political philosophies and it should adhere to the GNP’s conservative values.

Lee’s remarks were interpreted as his opposition against the new GNP leadership’s push for more welfare spending and trying to repeal tax cuts for the rich and large conglomerates - the kind of policies usually championed by the liberal parties. Hwang and the GNP’s new chief policy maker Lee Ju-young, however, made clear that they will push forward the liberal policies.

Meanwhile, a prominent reformist politician of the GNP declared yesterday his intention to not join the upcoming chairmanship election. “I am one of the Supreme Council members who had stepped down to take responsibility for the April 27 by-election defeats,” said Representative Chun Doo-un. “I reached a conclusion that it is appropriate for me to not run in the leadership election.”

The Grand Nationals will elect their new chairman and other leaders at the party caucus on July 4.

“The new leadership must be formed by new faces who are not linked to the by-election routs,” Chung said. “New wine must be stored in new wineskins. To approach the young voters who had deserted the GNP, the next leadership must be made of the new faces who can think and act more contemporarily, freely and democratically.”

He also stressed that ideological debate will only hurt the efforts to reform the party. “Voters are more interested in livelihood matters and the quality of life,” he said. “For the GNP to escape from the crisis, we must redefine our policies to meet the standards of the youngsters by prompting centrist reform and conservative renovation.”

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
황우여 “등록금 반값으로 줄이겠다”
친서민 정책 1호로 채택
4조9000억 재원이 문제

한나라당이 22일 ‘반값 대학등록금’을 재추진하기로 했다. 민주당은 올 초부터 ‘반값 등록금’을 당론으로 추진하겠다고 밝힌 상태다. 반면 한나라당은 이명박 대통령의 대선 공약이었던 ‘반값 등록금’ 정책을 정부 출범 뒤 폐기했었다. 이 대통령이 20일 황우여 원내대표 등과의 회동에서 “민주당 논리에 따라가지 말라”고 당부했으나 한나라당 새 지도부는 ‘친서민 정책 1호’로 민주당과 같은 목소리를 내게 된 셈이다.

 황 원내대표는 기자간담회에서 “(정책) 쇄신의 핵심이 등록금 문제”라며 “대학등록금 부담을 최소한 반값으로 줄였으면 한다”고 말했다. “현재 대학생의 등록금은 중산층도 부담하기 어려울 정도로 과중하다”고도 했다. 그는 “대학 교육이 우리나라는 현재 (미국처럼) 유상인데 (유럽에는) 무상으로 하는 나라도 있다”며 “수요일(25일) 라디오 연설을 통해 국가 미래에 대한 설계 차원에서 등록금에 대한 화두도 던지겠다”고 덧붙였다.

 한나라당은 반값 등록금 실현 방안으로 소득 수준 하위 50%(중위 소득자) 이하 소득자의 자녀들에 대해선 등록금을 정부 재정으로 차등 지원하는 방안을 검토하고 있다. 김성식 정책위 부의장은 “현 정부 들어 기초생활수급자는 이미 1인당 연 500만원을, 차상위 계층은 성적우수자 장학금을 지원받고 있다”며 “향후 예산추계를 감안해 중위 소득자까지 단계적으로 지원을 확대하는 방안을 설계할 것”이라고 말했다. 그는 “등록금을 무조건 반값으로 하겠다는 게 아니라 단계적으로 지원 폭을 확대하되 소득 수준, 성적 등을 고려해 차등 지원하는 안을 마련할 것”이라고 했다.

하지만 당은 4조9000억원대로 추정되는 재원이 들어갈 반값 등록금에 대해선 아직 정부와 협의도 거치지 않은 상태다. 이주영 정책위 의장은 “조만간 교육과학기술부와 당정 협의를 열어 구체적인 방안을 확정 짓겠다”고 말했다.
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