GNP takes hard left on tuitions ahead of 2012

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GNP takes hard left on tuitions ahead of 2012

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The Grand National Party is quickly veering to the left to woo young, working-class voters with wider welfare promises, as the liberal opposition Democratic Party expressed skepticism about the ruling party’s sudden shift.

With legislative and presidential elections scheduled for next year, the GNP’s reformists, led by new floor leader Hwang Woo-yea, have said lowering the country’s pricey college tuition will be the top priority in their campaign.

The reformists said the ruling party is seeking to expand existing tuition subsidy programs and scholarships to cover all families below the median or average income level.

The party often uses a slogan calling for “half-price tuition.” But it has said over the last couple of days that’s not literally true, but tuitions will be lowered, especially for the less wealthy.

According to GNP Representative Kim Sung-sik, deputy chief policy maker, about 228.7 billion won ($208.2 million) is currently spent annually to subsidize tuition of students from the lowest income brackets, in addition to a separate 100 billion won scholarship for excellent students. The ruling party wants to expand those programs, not to just cut tuition in half, Kim said.

“In addition to the 328.7 billion won currently being spent, about 2 trillion won of extra budget will be needed to realize our program,” he said. The government can raise the extra money by cancelling scheduled tax cuts for the rich and conglomerates and adjust its spending, he said.

Former GNP chairwoman Park Geun-hye seemed to express support for the shift in the GNP’s stance. In a posting on Twitter on Saturday, Park wrote, “I believe it’s important to create an environment in which our students can dream about their futures and pursue the dreams with passion.”

She wrote that there will be an opportunity to present her opinions on the matter in the future.

Since 2006, when Park headed the party, she has frequently shown interest in the tuition issue. Shortly before local elections in May 2006, she and the GNP promoted a plan to cut tuition costs in half.

The older powers in the conservative ruling party are worried that its reformist leadership is pushing the GNP to the left too rapidly.

“It is extremely dangerous to abandon the fundamental values and move the party’s center to the left,” Representative Cho Hae-jin said. “The more we try to embrace a centrist strategy, the stronger we should protect conservative values.”

The Blue House refused to make an official comment on the GNP’s “half-price tuition” campaign, but a Lee administration official said it is unrealistic to just cut tuitions without structural reform.

“Universities are highly dependent on tuition,” the official said. “The government is trying to fix the problem by providing more incentives and subsidies to the schools that lower the dependency.”

The official also blamed previous liberal administrations for expensive tuitions.

“If you look at the statistics, tuitions were nearly frozen over the past three years and have gone up less than the inflation rate,” the official said. “They went up rapidly during the last government.”

The opposition Democratic Party yesterday pressed the ruling party to follow through with its pledge for lower tuitions. “We will support and cooperate with all policies to realize the ‘half-price tuition’ policy,” Kim Jin-pyo, the DP’s new floor leader, said yesterday. Kim also said the GNP must prove its integrity by including the matter in a series of welfare bills promoted by the DP. Kim also demanded the GNP apologize for having criticized the DP’s policies, which it is mimicking, as “populist” promises in the past.


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

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
박근혜 “학생들 꿈 이룰 환경이 중요”
‘반값 등록금’ 논의 급물살

한나라당 황우여 원내대표가 제안한 ‘대학생 반값 등록금’이 실현될 수 있을까. 한나라당에선 박근혜 전 대표 측이 찬성하고 있다. 민주당 김진표 원내대표도 “6월 국회에서 도입하자”며 호응했다.

 박근혜 전 대표는 21일 트위터에 “학생들이 자신의 미래에 대해 꿈을 꿀 수 있고 열정을 갖고 실현해 나갈 수 있는 환경을 만드는 게 중요하다”는 글을 남겼다. 그의 트위터 팔로어가 “이 시대 대학생들과 학부모들이 잘못된 교육정책에 의해 심히 흔들리고 있다. 대안을 듣고 싶다”고 하자 이같이 답한 것이다. 박 전 대표의 대변인 격인 이정현 의원은 23일 “반값 등록금은 박 전 대표의 교육철학 중 하나”라고 말했다. 박 전 대표는 2006년 3월 국회 교육위원이던 이주호 현 교육과학기술부 장관이 마련한 ‘반값 등록금’ 추진방안을 당론으로 채택, 같은 해 5·31 지방선거 때 처음 공약으로 제시했다. 그런 뒤 2007년 대선 경선 때도 “3조원 규모 ‘새희망장학기금’으로 반값 등록금을 실현하겠다”고 발표했다. 이명박 대통령도 후보 시절 “맞춤형 국가 장학제도로 1000만원에 달하는 등록금을 줄이겠다”고 약속했다. 하지만 이명박 정부 출범 이후에는 ‘반값 등록금’은 등록금 후불제의 일종인 ‘취업 후 학자금 상환제(든든학자금)’ 정책으로 전환됐다.

 반면 여당(열린우리당) 시절엔 반대 입장이던 민주당이 지난해부터 ‘3(무상의료·급식·보육)+1(반값 등록금)’의 무상 시리즈에 반값 등록금을 포함시켰다. 황우여 원내대표는 23일 기자와 만나 “반값 등록금은 한나라당의 오래된 약속”이라며 “20대 미래세대가 인생의 출발부터 빚을 안게 할지, 국가가 지원할지 국민적 결단이 필요한 사안”이라고 강조했다. 그러면서 “20일 청와대 회동에서 서민정책 1순위로 등록금 문제를 대통령에게 보고했다. 새 학기가 시작되기 전까지 가시적 성과를 내겠다”고 의지를 보였다.

 그러나 이날 이주영 당 정책위의장, 백용호 청와대 정책실장 등 당·정·청이 회동한 자리에서 청와대와 정부 측은 “막대한 재정이 소요되는 반값 등록금을 당이 일방적으로 발표할 수 있느냐”고 항의했다 한다. 청와대 관계자는 “반값 등록금은 이명박 정부 출범 이후 재원 마련이 불가능하다고 보고 폐기했던 것”이라고 강조했다. 친이명박계인 심재철 전 정책위의장도 “대학 진학률이 세계 1위(82%)인 나라에서 대학들의 구조조정을 선행하지 않고 돈으로만 때우려는 시도는 결국 국민 세금만 퍼붓는 결과가 될 것”이라고 주장했다.

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