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KMT's Hou pledges to increase private university tuition subsidies

10/07/2023 05:09 PM
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KMT presidential nominee Hou Yu-ih speaks at a press conference Friday. CNA photo Oct. 6, 2023
KMT presidential nominee Hou Yu-ih speaks at a press conference Friday. CNA photo Oct. 6, 2023

Taipei, Oct.7 (CNA) The main opposition Kuomintang's (KMT) presidential nominee Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) on Friday promised to gradually raise NT$35,000 (US$1,087) annual subsidies for students enrolled at private universities set to be introduced in February to NT$50,000.

Speaking at a press conference, Hou did not give a timeframe for reaching NT$50,000 but did say that his administration would disburse the subsidies to students in September 2025 at the start of the academic year.

However, under Hou's plan, students receiving the government's proposed annual subsidy in February 2024 will have to wait until September 2025 to receive it again.

If Hou is elected president and inaugurated in May next year, his administration will present to the Legislature in August 2024 a budget for the fiscal year of 2025 as per usual practice.

Asked by CNA about the implications of this on Saturday, Huang Tzu-che (黃子哲), a spokesperson of Hou, said details as to how to execute the subsidy program would be further discussed.

In light of the widening gap in tuition and miscellaneous fees between public and private universities, a fixed subsidy will be introduced to assist private university students if he is elected, Hou said.

The average annual tuition at public schools in Taiwan is around NT$11,000, compared with NT$62,000 at private universities, according to the latest Ministry of Education figures.

On policies to address Taiwan's low birth rate, Hou at Friday's press conference pledged to expand the eligibility for monthly child-rearing and private day care center tuition subsidies for children of ages ranging from 1 to 4 to also include 5-year-olds.

The amount of the two subsidies is set at NT$10,000 per month, meaning that parents with five-year-olds will receive NT$20,000 in monthly subsidies, Hou said.

The New Taipei mayor, who is currently on an official leave of absence as he campaigns for president, also vowed to increase the legal mandatory minimum spent on education from the current 23 percent of annual net government revenues to 24 percent, when revenues are sufficient to fund such a budget increase.

This would see an extra NT$30 billion spent on education in Taiwan each year, according to Hou, who did not say how the planned increase would be funded.

Hou's tuition and day care pledges come following similar proclamations from the ruling Democrat Progressive Party (DPP).

In late June, the DPP government vowed to earmark NT$21.9 billion for a tuition subsidy of at least NT$35,000 a year to all private university students starting in February 2024 to bridge the current gap between private and public university tuition.

That same month, the ruling DPP's presidential candidate Lai Ching-te (賴清德) said that if elected, he would implement tuition exemptions for senior high schools and vocational schools.

In addition to providing a fixed annual subsidy of NT$35,000 for tuition and miscellaneous fees to private college students, economically disadvantaged students attending public colleges and universities can receive exemptions of up to NT$ 20,000 or NT$55,000 if they are enrolled in private colleges, Lai added.

In April, Lai pledged to raise subsidies for parents with children under 3 attending public daycare centers from NT$5,500 to NT$7,000 per month and subsidies for those using publicly subsidized private day care centers or home babysitting services will receive NT$13,000 a month, up from NT$8,500 currently.

The Cabinet approved matching policies for tuition subsidies and day care in June and September, respectively.

According to the Cabinet, the increase in childcare subsidies will take effect in January and be funded using surplus tax revenues.

(By Liu Kuan-ting, Evelyn Kao, Teng Pei-ju, Sean Lin and Shih Hsiu-chuan)

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