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Chile’s Congress Approves “Free Education” for Majority of Students

By: Karina Martín - Jul 18, 2017, 3:41 pm
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Sebastián Piñera warns that the reform represents a high cost of more than 300 million dollars for the government. (Twitter)

EspañolChile has taken new steps to ward reforming major components of its higher education system.

This Monday, July 17, the country’s Chamber of Deputies approved a bill originally put forward by President Michelle Bachelet that would cover 60 percent of tuition for students of low-income families. The reform bill passed through the Senate with 62 votes in favor and 41 against, with two abstentions.

The bill also established a move toward free tuition for all, but which depends on the pace of the country’s economic growth. A gradual advance toward universally free education could occur if tax revenue is 29.5-percent of Gross Domestic Product.

“This is not the reform that we have worked toward for so many years,” said Giorgio Jackson, a member of the left-wing Democratic Revolution Party.

“This is all very frustrating, mainly because we have been working for so many years, protesting for a reform that is comprehensive and that guarantees education as a right,” he said. This reform, on the other hand, is a “lie,” he added.

“(The bill) does not compromise a substantial advance,” Jackson said, “since those families that have an income of about US $226 per capita are indeterminately left out of gratuity.”

The former president and current presidential candidate Sebastián Piñera has pointed out on several occasions that this reform is too costly. A better solution, he’s said, would involve keeping tuition at 50-percent free while allocating the rest toward pensions and the National Service for Minors.

Meanwhile, Jaime Bellolio of the right-wing party Independent Democrat Union said it would be better to advance toward 60-percent free tuition by 2019 once the resources to do so are truly available.

Sources: La Tercera; Notimérica; Nanduti; Equilibrio Informativo; Biobio Chile.

Karina Martín Karina Martín

Karina Martín is a Venezuelan reporter with the PanAm Post based in Valencia. She holds a bachelor's degree in Modern Languages from the Arturo Michelena University.