GNP has plan to cut college fees 30% in 3 years
The ruling Grand National Party announced yesterday a roadmap to cut college tuition by more than 30 percent.
Representative Hwang Woo-yea, floor leader of the GNP, held a press conference yesterday and said the party wants to spend 6.8 trillion won ($6.31 billion) in public funds and have universities spend 1.5 trillion won over the next three years, which he said will lead to cheaper education and better universities.
While the party initially said the plan to inject a massive amount of state money into the university system was agreed to at a late night meeting of its floor leader and chief policy maker and the finance and education ministers, it later backtracked and said the government had only agreed to the larger framework of the roadmap, not the specifics.
And the Blue House was totally blindsided by the party’s announcement.
“I am very happy to announce this measure and to find the true breakthrough in resolving this serious issue,” Hwang said. “One month is a short period of time, but we rushed and worked hard to come up with this plan.”
On May 23, Hwang said that sweeping measures to lower the country’s college tuition would be the GNP’s top priority to restore its popularity ahead of general and presidential elections next year.
Since then, both ruling and opposition political parties have clamored to one-up each other in promises of tuition relief.
In the GNP’s program, the first step will be taken next year when the government spends 1.5 trillion won to lower tuition by an average of 15 percent.
Of the state funding, 1.3 trillion won will be dedicated to actually lowering tuition. About 300 billion won will be used to reward universities that voluntarily lower tuition. Hwang said universities’ voluntary efforts to match the government’s financial support is an important part of the plan.
The government is to spend 200 billion won giving scholarships and lowering student loan interest rates.
The ruling party wants universities to chip in by raising another 500 billion won to expand scholarships. Various tax benefits to encourage donations to universities are also planned, including a 100 percent tax refund for corporate donations. Currently, companies receive 50 percent tax refunds.
Representative Lim Hae-kyu, who heads the GNP’s tuition-cut task force, said another 2.3 trillion won and 3 trillion won of state money will be spent in 2013 and 2014, respectively, to lower tuition by 30 percent from the current amount.
Conspicuously missing from the GNP’s announcement, however, was how to raise the funds needed. Minister of Strategy and Finance Bahk Jae-wan strongly disapproves of the measures, and the ruling party and the government failed to come up with an agreement during late night discussions Wednesday.
“We will discuss the roadmap with the opposition parties and the government during the National Assembly’s deliberation for next year’s budget to develop it further,” Hwang said.
“Today’s announcement may not be satisfactory to the people, but I would like to ask the public to understand that it is the best effort warranted within the limit of state finance,” Hwang said, possibly referring to demands from some that tuition be cut by 50 percent. Politicians, including Hwang, initially used the term “half-price tuition” in their pledges to help students, and they have struggled with protesters who now demand that promise to be realized.
The Blue House was baffled by the ruling party’s decision to announce the measure on the eve of the president’s meeting next week with the leader of the largest opposition party. President Lee Myung-bak will meet with Democratic Party Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu on Monday to discuss pending state issues, including tuition cuts.
“No final decision has been made,” said Kim Du-woo, senior public affairs secretary to the president. “This is a complex political equation. We have to consider the ruling party’s position as well as the opposition chairman’s position. It’s not an easy situation.”
He said the finance and education ministries also disagree with the plan, and it will take time for the government to come up with a final plan.
Another Blue House official said the timing of yesterday’s announcement was undesirable considering the Blue House’s desire for a successful meeting next week with Sohn.
The Ministry of Strategy and Finance also made clear yesterday that the GNP’s announcement is not a finalized plan.
“The specific figures can only be decided when we agree with the measures,” said Bang Moon-kyu, Finance Ministry spokesman. “The GNP appeared to announce a plan currently under discussion.”
The Democratic Party also criticized the timing of the GNP’s announcement.
“That lacks etiquette to the DP and the president,” said Representative Jang Se-hwan, a senior policy maker, at the DP’s leadership meeting. “We will find out if the GNP’s action is meant to influence the summit between Lee and Sohn or not once the meeting takes place.”
In a related but separate development, the National Assembly’s committee on education Wednesday approved a bill to revise the law governing private universities to stop schools from stockpiling tuition money in reserve. If the bill is approved at the main voting session next Wednesday, it will take effect starting next year.
Last year, 100 private universities nationwide accumulated 811.7 billion won in reserves. Since the country has about 290 private universities, the total amount is estimated at 1 trillion won.
Instead of lowering tuitions, schools were criticized for transferring leftover revenue to their reserve funds.
By Ser Myo-ja [email@example.com]
한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
황우여 “등록금 내년에 15% 낮추겠다”
2014년까지 6조8000억 투입 30% 내리기로 … 청와대·재정부 “최종 합의 아니다”
한나라당이 2014년까지 6조8000억원의 예산을 투입해 대학등록금을 30% 이상 인하하는 내용의 ‘대학등록금 부담 경감 대책’을 23일 발표했다. 그러나 청와대와 기획재정부는 “ 한나라당과 정부가 최종 합의한 건 아니다”고 밝혔다.
황우여(사진) 원내대표는 국회에서 기자회견을 열고 “우선 2012년에 1조5000억원의 정부 예산과 대학이 자체적으로 조성한 장학금 5000억원을 투입해 등록금 부담을 15% 이상 낮출 방침”이라고 말했다. 이와 관련, 임해규(당 등록금대책 태스크포스 팀장) 의원은 “내년에 투입될 1조5000억원 중에서 1조3000억원은 고지서상의 등록금(명목 등록금)을 10% 낮추는 데 쓰고, 나머지 2000억원은 차상위계층 장학금 지원과 ‘든든학자금’(취업 후 상환하는 학자금 대출)에 대한 이자부담 완화 등에 투입할 계획”이라고 설명했다.
임 의원은 또 “2013년에 2조3000억원, 2014년 3조원으로 재정 투입규모를 늘려 나가고, 각 대학으로부터 매년 저소득층 지원 장학금으로 5000억원을 거둬 등록금 부담률을 2013년에 24% 이상, 2014년에 30% 이상으로 낮출 계획”이라고 밝혔다.
그러나 기획재정부 방문규 대변인은 이날 브리핑에서 “등록금 부담을 완화하고 고등교육에 재정지원을 확충해야 한다는 데는 한나라당과 정부가 인식을 같이한다”면서도 “다만 재정 지원 규모와 방식에 대해선 아직 (당정 간에) 합의가 이뤄지지 않아 좀 더 협의가 필요하다”고 말했다. 당정이 완전히 합의하지 않은 사안을 발표한 황 원내대표는 “6월까지 대책을 만들지 않으면 내년도 예산에 등록금 부담 경감에 들어갈 돈을 반영할 수가 없다”고 강조했다.
김두우 청와대 홍보수석은 “등록금 문제는 여당의 입장은 물론 27일 이명박 대통령과 (대학등록금 부담 경감을 의제로) ‘민생회담’을 하는 손학규 민주당 대표 입장도 고려해야 하는 고차원적 방정식”이라며 “조율에 시간이 걸릴 것”이라고 했다.
김황식 국무총리, 황 원내대표, 임태희 대통령실장, 백용호 청와대 정책실장 등 당·정·청 고위인사들은 23일 심야회동을 통해 등록금 후속대책을 논의했다. 임채민 총리실장은 회의 후 “한나라당이 발표한 대책의 배경과 방향에는 공감하나 정부가 보다 구체적인 대책을 당과 협의해 수립하기로 했다”고 전했다.
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