Sunday, May 06, 2007

Students Strike, Higher Education Suffers

Israel's university and college students have been striking since April 10. The student organisations are opposed to a new government-appointed committee, led by former minister of the treasury, Avraham Shochat, which is examining reforms in Israel's higher education system.

The committee is expected to recommend higher tuition fees as an additional source for the university's depleted coffers, along with setting up a large scale student loan system and scholarships for those who cannot afford the tuition. I think this is a good solution, but the student organisations are only worried about students' pockets, not about what is best for our institutes of higher education.

The students demand that the government lower the tuition (in other words, raise tuition subsidies), and in addition, they demand that it should raise the universities' budgets. Both of these things cannot be done at the same time. Where will all the money come from? We, the students, should stop this strike. Lowering tuition fees in the current state of affairs is the wrong cause.

Even though I do not support this strike, I'm angered by the university presidents' attempt to force the students to end their strike. On Friday they announced that the semester would be extended by two weeks and students who return to class on Monday will be assisted with any missed study materials. However, they warned that students who do not return may lose this semester and will have to repeat it next year. Instead of negotiating with the students, they are bullying them.

Let's go back to school, not because we are forced into it, but because we understand that we are wrong. Let's accept the government's compromise proposal, which is too generous in my opinion. The proposal promises not to raise the tuition for those who are already studying, and raise it only for new students who will start studying in the future.

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