July, 21 2014 10:31:00

Chile mulls ditching university tuition: minister

SANTIAGO — University tuition, which has sparked violent protests in Chile over spiralling increases, could be scrapped under a new government plan, a top official said.

Education Minister Nicolas Eyzaguirre told El Mercurio newspaper that under the proposed plan, a four-year college education would be paid for by revenues collected from university graduates after they have finished their education and entered the work world.

"We would fulfil the goal of free universal education, but in an efficient way," the minister said in the interview published on Sunday. He called the $20,000 per student cost of the programme a "sound" investment, but one that also requires "personal effort" from students themselves toward financing their own education.

President Michelle Bachelet, a socialist who took office for a second non-consecutive term in March, has made education reform a central plank of her presidency.

She already has proposed sweeping proposals to make university more affordable and improve the quality of public education.

Chile's education system has roots in free-market policies promoted during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). It has been a target of mass protests since 2011, with students seeking free education from primary school through university.

About 52 per cent of Chile's students are enrolled in for-profit schools, financed with a combination of state subsidies and "family co-payments." — AFP

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