Mon, 14 Feb 2000

UI to ensure education for penniless students

JAKARTA (JP): University of Indonesia (UI) rector Asman Boedisantoso vowed on Saturday to ensure the continuation of education for its less privileged students despite its limited budget.

"We'll try our best to ensure that no students drop out of school because of financial problems," he told reporters after leading a graduation ceremony of UI's 2,266 undergraduate students, held at its Depok campus.

He said due to the economic crisis, the university was facing financial problems because the government had decided to reduce the budget for UI's educational activities starting in April this year.

The government allocated Rp 9.9 billion (US$1.32 million) this year from Rp 14.2 billion last year to support its educational activities. The budget reduction was mainly on the operational fund, which amounted to Rp 3.6 billion last year.

Asman said he personally understood the students' financial situation, but demanded they needed to understand the university's financial situation, too.

"The students pay $80 to enjoy $1,100 worth of education," he said.

The rector said this had forced the university to ask some 2,500 teaching staff members to contribute Rp 3 million each from their annual wages to help the students.

He especially appreciated the teachers' dedication in continuing the education of the students, since "each teacher's basic monthly earnings is only Rp 180,000".

With such a sacrifice, he said, the university could help finance the educational expenses of the students with its "Student Safety Net program".

He said the university managed to allocate Rp 2.27 billion last year to help 3,795 students through the program, and this year UI expected to raise Rp 2.5 billion to help 4,059 students.

"We will try our best to make sure those talented students finish their education, despite our financial limitations," he said.

Asman pledged that the problem would not affect the performance of its graduate students who, he said, ranked fourth in the Asia-Pacific region.

"But we rank far below at 79, in terms of the university's total financial revenue," he said.

He said UI is planning to adopt "educational autonomy" by the year 2009. The plans will include seeking the possibility of establishing a cooperation with companies and international donors, mainly for a human resources development program for its teaching staff.

The university has been cooperating with various countries, including Japan and Australia.

"We'll hold talks with donor countries to obtain grants," he said.

The graduation ceremony also saw some 50 students stage a demonstration in front of the university's bus terminal to protest the university's policy which requires students to pay Rp 750,000 for its educational development program and Rp 475,000 for tuition fees per semester.

Including administration fees, students are required to pay Rp 1,260,000 per semester. (06)