Treasury to Double Tuition for Prestige Professions

The Finance Ministry is planning to double university tuition for students pursuing sought-after majors, and to do away with the budget for security guards for schools and preschools. These are only two of the many decrees the treasury is considering for inclusion in the 2009 state budget and Economic Arrangements Law, MK Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) revealed yesterday after receiving a draft version of the arrangements law.

Prepared by the Finance Ministry but not yet presented to the Education Ministry for comment, the draft proposal includes the cancelation of subsidies for students studying law, accounting and business administration. The treasury wants to open these programs to the "free market," which would mean a drastic rise in their cost - at least double the present level.

Yachimovich: "The meaning of such a decision is that only students from well-off families could become lawyers, accountants or learn business administration - professions that are preparation for managerial positions. Such programs will be closed completely to students from lower and middle socioeconomic status," she explained.

"In practice, this is the privatization of Israeli higher education, a dangerous and discriminatory development. It is unacceptable for it to pass. It if does, other programs will be privatized and the universities will be closed to the public and the gaps in education will grow," said Yachimovich.

Another section of the bill involves cancelling the funding for securing schools. The cuts would come from the budget of the Public Security Ministry. Guarding schools and preschools is budgeted at NIS 140 million this year, and the treasury wants to do away with this sum completely - and with it other types of security for educational institutions.

In addition, the treasury proposes slashing an additional NIS 15 million for guards at institutions with a long school day, which the Jewish Agency previously matched with grants.

"Here, too, the treasury is consistent in widening [social] gaps: Parents associated with schools in well-off areas and strong local authorities will assume the security payments themselves, and those who will be hurt and abandoned will be students from weaker areas and the poor [local] authorities in the periphery," explained Yachimovich.

MK Michael Melchior (Labor), chairman of the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee, commented that "the intention to raise tuition is part of the attempt to destroy public education, which is geting worse every day. The treasury is taking every possible step to allow the gaps to grow and to privatize everything that is proper and works in Israeli society."

Melchior said the education Ccmmittee will oppose the changes. "It is not clear why the treasury, from the minister down to the lowest clerk, who are all graduates of the magnificent universities of Israel, are attacking them to destroy them at every possible opportunity," he said.