The Schochat Reforms / The Price of Flour and the Price of Education

It was a forgone conclusion that the Shochat Committee on higher education would do students an injustice.

The committee's composition and its members' declarations indicated from the outset that they were going to raise tuition. Ehud Olmert and Yuli Tamir have no cause for disappointment: Shochat and his colleagues delivered the goods, and generously. Instead of NIS 8,588 a year, the students will pay NIS 14,800, almost double. The dice was loaded from the start.

The draconian hike threatens to cripple poorer students and wreck their chances of getting an education. They committee is feigning to ease the burden with loans and scholarships, but its feeble justifications will fool nobody.

There are plenty of loans already available today, but nobody wants them. Students are afraid to fall into the trap of the benefits and reductions, because tomorrow the bastards will change the rules.

After all, this is exactly what has happened so far. Only seven years ago the government decided to adopt the first Winograd Committee's conclusions and reduce the tuition by 50 percent. Avraham Shochat and Yuli Tamir, then finance minister and absorption minister, respectively, both voted in favor of the decision, as did all the other ministers. Tamir even went further and praised the Winograd conclusions, calling them "the most important decision of Barak's government."

Suddenly these people have switched sides and decided to fleece the students to "save higher education." Winograd's conclusions had never been carried out in full, thanks to Benjamin Netanyahu and Limor Livnat, who even slashed higher education funds by some NIS 2 billion. Now the committee is demading that the students, of all people, provide the missing money. They must pay out of their own pocket what the governments of Sharon and Olmert have taken.

At times one gets the impression that the universities in Israel were not intended for their students, but for their fund managers. The former will suffocate, but the latter will heave a sigh of relief. The budget is all, and the students are a bit redundant. Without them it would have been much easier to maintain the institutions.

Of all the Shochat Committee's recommendations, one will be faithfully implemented: tuition will be raised, that's certain, while all the rest hangs in the balance. Wasn't it the Olmert-Tamir government that recently promised to increase the education budget, especially for teachers, yet continues to slash that budget by hundreds of millions? Didn't Olmert and Meir Sheetrit promise about a year ago to stabilize the miserably small culture budget and even increase it a little? Already they have slashed it by NIS 70 million.

Are the students expected to trust these people? These are people who can renege on any agreement faster than they can speak about it.

From now on, the Israeli student will pay more than any student in Europe, as though to compensate the state for his military service, both regular and in reserves; as though to thank the government for its escapades, which enable him to stop his studies every now and then and refresh himself in Gaza or Lebanon, and perhaps soon in Syria as well.

This is a government more Bibi-like than Bibi. Netanyahu made do with sidestepping Winograd's findings and compensating the students with pizza. Olmert, Barak and Eli Yishai instead maintain the price of bread, but price education sky high. Meanwhile, ultra-Orthodox men will continue to study free, as happily as they continue to dodge the draft.