Thu, 26 Jun 2003

House asks state universities to review special admission fee

Kurniawan Hari and Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Bandung

The House of Representatives on Wednesday asked four prominent state universities to review their policy of charging new students admission fees far above the normal rate.

The request was extended to rectors of the universities, who had been summoned to clarify the policy, which has sparked protests nationwide.

It is the second uproar regarding the issue of education after the controversy over the national education bill which was passed on June 12.

Deputy chairman of the House Commission VI on education Anwar Arifin, who presides over the hearing, suggested that the University of Indonesia (UI) in Jakarta, Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta, Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) in West Java find another system which was not so discriminative.

"We understand there are limited funds available to finance the universities, but please find another way," Anwar said.

The higher education institutions set their admission fees at between Rp 5 million (US$609) and Rp 150 million, arguing that they needed funds to finance the universities after the government cut its subsidy. The universities have been granted a legal status that allows them to raise their own funds.

ITB Rector Kusmayanto Kadiman told the legislators the institute was providing a subsidy of between Rp 9 million and Rp 10 million for each student per year.

Kusmayanto said that ideally a student should pay Rp 18 million per year.

"That's why ITB has opened a special enrollment for students who are ready to pay between Rp 45 million and Rp 150 million," he added. Students are normally selected to attend state universities through a national test where only the top-ranking students are admitted.

He said the money collected from the special admission program would be spent to help other underprivileged students.

UI Rector Usman Chatib Warsa revealed that the university needed more money as its operational costs had increased to Rp 367 billion for 2003. The increase was a result of the change in the university's status.

Usman said the government was responsible for 35 percent of the budget.

UI plans to allocate only 13 percent of its seats through the special admissions program.

The education ministry's director general for higher education Indra Djati Sidi, who was also present in the hearing, said the universities had the right to determine the admission and tuition fees due to their independent status.

Indra said an audit council had been set up in each of the universities to monitor and evaluate the use of the fees.

Meanwhile, a group of students from UI, ITB, and IPB met legislators after the hearing to reject the commercial orientation of the universities.

In Bandung, hundreds of ITB students held a second rally in as many days to protest the special admission fee.

Rally coordinator Ahmad Mustofa said the policy will restrict the chances of students from middle and lower class people to study in ITB.

"The admission fee is only affordable for rich people, what about those who cannot afford to pay that amount?" Ahmad said in the rally.

A total of 296 students have entered the institute through the program after going through a selection process. From them, ITB managed to raise some Rp 25.3 billion.

A minor incident occurred during the protest as one of the students, Sawung, burned his own hand while setting fire to an effigy of the ITB rector.