Students who are not lucky enough to get enrolled on a full scholarship are about to face a very unpleasant surprise: if the government adopts a resolution that would introduce the indicative tuition fee, fee-based education will be much more expensive from 2020. It means that the universities will establish a minimum limit, which the tuition fee must exceed. Opinion made an attempt to figure out whether this step will bring more money to our universities and what it may lead to in general.

According to the director of the Department of Higher Education of the Ministry of Education Oleh Sharov, the amount that can be allocated by the state for the education of a full-scholarship student (namely, 30 thousand hryvnias per year) is very small compared to the European standards, but is much bigger than the average cost of a yearly fee-based education. They say, the state cannot increase these charges, so we need to look for ways out of this difficult situation. At the same time, the underfunding of the field, according to the officials from the relevant Ministry, is one of the main reasons for the poor quality of higher education in Ukraine.

They took a little strange way to raise the level of funding of universities – they decided to get even more into the not-so-thick wallets of the parents of those students who for some reason will not be able to get a full scholarship. This happens not only due to the fact that a young person didn’t learn enough and didn’t get enough points on External Independent Testing (EIT). I know a case when a young man from Kyiv was enrolled on a full scholarship to the law academy in Kharkiv, but the family decided to choose a fee-based education in one of the Kyiv universities. As his father said, he has both a roof over his head, and a bowl of borsch, and letting the son go to Kharkiv would cost no less than the tuition fee in Kyiv.

Law and consequences 

By the way, the draft resolution “on some issues of the introduction of indicative cost”, which can be seen on the website of the Ministry of education in the Public discussion section, is developed by the Ministry in pursuance of the law on the state budget for this year. That is, it was last year when the government decided to raise the cost of the fee-based education to the estimated amount spent by the state for one full-scholarship student per year. The final provisions of this law contain only one sentence: to introduce a mechanism of the indicative cost (in volumes of the minimum tuition fee for each specialty (specialization) according to the license conditions). It includes all specialties without exceptions. However, a somewhat different picture emerges from the Ministerial resolution.

First, a certain transition period is offered in it: in 2020, the tuition fee should be equal to at least 60% of the full-scholarship education cost (excluding scholarships and social benefits for orphans etc). In 2021, the minimum tuition fee should already be at the level of 70%, and since 2022 – at the level of 80% of the previous year’s full-scholarship education cost, and the year here is not academic, but the calendar. At the same time, more democratic conditions are offered for an evening, correspondence and distance learning: the indicative cost for the evening courses is reduced by 25%, and for correspondence and distance learning – by half. But master studies will be even more expensive because the officials want to increase the indicative cost here by another 30%.

Professions with the restricted access

And the most interesting thing that contradicts the law on the state budget-2019, but, according to the officials, is aimed at the good goals, is the proposed list of specialties, which are assumed to rise in price. Why does it contradict the law? Because the law means to introduce the indicative for all, but this resolution would complicate the lives of those who choose the most popular specialties. It identified the 12 fields of knowledge where the tuition fee is intended to be bound to the full scholarship cost. It is culture and arts, humanities, social and behavioral science, journalism, management and administration, law, engineering and architecture, veterinary medicine, health care, service sector, public management and administration, and international relations.

And within these fields, 34 specialties are defined. They include design, foreign languages (the exception is offered only for the Ukrainian language and literature, Crimean Tatar language and literature, classical languages, literature and folklore), economics, political science, psychology, sociology, management and marketing, finance and banking, architecture and urban planning, geodesy and land management and the like. Health care suffers most of all, where the indicative cost is intended for as much as 9 specialties. And if the intention to limit the number of dentists or pharmacists in this way is understandable, then the desire to make education more expensive in specialties such as nursing, medical diagnosis and treatment technologies and pediatrics leads to certain conclusions. For example, if we have so many nurses, who, by the way, have always received and keep receiving pennies for their hard labor, then why do women older than 70 still work even in the clinics of Kyiv? So, we want to make sure there are no nurses at all? Because it is doubtful that someone will pay even more for education if the work in the specialty will not provide financial stability.

The stratification of society will increase

Контрактне навчання – не для українських гаманців

The idea of defining the minimum financial limit for the tuition fee was not taken well in the universities themselves. For example, the acting deputy rector of the V.I. Vernadsky Taurida National University Volodymyr Kazarin noted in the commentary to Opinion that due to the current situation in the country in general and in higher education institutions in particular, there will be even greater social stratification of our citizens – those who can afford paid higher education, and those who cannot. “And another equally important aspect,” the head of the Taurida University explains, “is that we will only increase the flow of those who go to study abroad, where there are a lot of different programs that contribute to the education of foreigners. For example, for those who are willing to study in Polish or Slovak language, they reduce or cancel fees in these countries. There are many other options, as a result of which our children receive European diplomas and other prospects. That is, it turns out that it is cheaper and more profitable for our children to study abroad, because there they take care of our students more than at home.”

According to Volodymyr Kazarin, now there is indeed a problem of unsettledness between the needs of the labor market and the number of specialists who graduate from universities. So, it is necessary to start with it, and not with the restriction for youth to access higher education. “We have to respond correctly to the demands of the labor market,” he says. “There are different forms. For example, it would be useful for higher education institutions to work more closely with employers’ associations: to ensure that their representatives would start working with their future employees from the second year, as it is done in the West. In particular, they could pay for the studies of the most successful students and help them additionally by providing practice and the like.” Therefore, according to Volodymyr Kazarin, nowadays the universities need to establish ties with employers and to form the list of specialties they have demand for, but now such ties are only established in some universities, and they are quite scarce.

Контрактне навчання – не для українських гаманців

However, in the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, where paid education is not so cheap even now (for example, the tuition fee for lawyers is more than 50 thousand hryvnias per year), they do not think it is problematic to define the minimum limit of the tuition fee. “The introduction of indicative cost is absolutely normal,” the vice-rector for scientific and pedagogical work of this University Volodymyr Buhrov explains to Opinion, “after all, how can higher education cost pennies? Well, excuse me, can we even talk about the quality in this case at all?”

A threat to regional universities

So, the vice-rector of the Taras Shevchenko University gives another reason that prompted the introduction of indicative cost for the fee-based education. We are talking about the fact that regional universities often dump to stay afloat by any means while disregarding the quality. According to Volodymyr Buhrov, we should start with the fact that now it is not necessary for everyone to have a higher education. “Higher education is acquired on a competitive basis, and if a person is intelligent, talented, and passed EIT, he will be enrolled on a state-funded basis,” he explains. “If his EIT results are bad, you need to think in this case about whether this young man needs higher education at all”.

However, this approach to solving the problem is considered unacceptable, for example, in the Mykhailo Ostrohradskyi Kremenchuk National University. A draft appeal of deputies of the Kremenchuk city council was developed in this university with the requirement to improve the aforementioned resolution. As soon as the local deputies consider and accept it (and this should happen in April), the document will be sent to the Prime Minister, to the Ministry of Education and even to the Verkhovna Rada. According to the dean of one of the faculties of the university, the deputy of the Kremenchuk city council Andrii Pochtoviuk, the introduction of this resolution in its current form, without simultaneous global changes in the system of financing of higher education will entail only negative consequences. And the main idea of the appeal is quite in tune with the opinion of the head of the Taurida University that the set of popular specialties “will be affordable only for wealthy students”, and this may lead to tension in society. “This much-inflated price of education will force future applicants from poorer regions (a large part of Ukraine) to go abroad to the nearest European universities (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany), where they will be able to both study and work, and we will lose the young working-age population,” the appeal states. “Inflated price will lead to the closure of almost all regional universities that fulfill the requests of industrialists in their regions”.

Sheer arithmetics that is not noticed

Контрактне навчання – не для українських гаманців

As we can see, educators point to at least a few consequences, which will result in a rash introduction of the indicative for fee-based education. Among them are further stratification of society and inaccessibility of higher education for poor citizens, as well as the threat of closure of higher education institutions in the regions. “Today, the situation is as follows,” Stanislav Nikolayenko, the rector of the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine, the Minister of education and science of Ukraine (2005-2007), notes in the commentary for Opinion, “there is a real underfunding of the industry, and I agree that it is necessary to look for ways out of it. But it is very short-sighted to introduce the indicative cost price against the background of the general poverty of the majority of the population. To understand this, it is necessary to make easy calculations that even a pupil can do.”

Stanislav Nikolayenko offered to consider several indicators: the minimum salary, the average salary in Ukraine and the average cost of education. Despite the fact that a lot of people have a minimum salary, while a lot of people’s salaries also do not reach the average level (if anyone does not understand it, we got it also considering the salaries of some heads of some state-owned enterprises, with whom they still cannot part amicably and without financial losses), these calculations are very relevant. “If a father has a minimum wage, multiply it by 12 months and calculate taxes, it turns out that in a year he would receive about 40 thousand hryvnias, while the average salary is 96 thousand,” the rector of NUBiP explains. “And now consider how much he would need to pay for the child’s fee-based education: even with an average salary, it is difficult because the child also needs things to wear and food. With the minimum salary, it is absolutely impossible. And parents also need to live for something, pay utility bills, receive treatment. That is, if we look from this side, the question is that we will simply throw our children out of the universities, and where they will go – to study abroad, to private universities or will not study at all – that’s another question.”

According to the ex-Minister of education and science, if you set the indicative cost, then this should be done not just based on the average cost of fee-based education, which is like considering the average temperature in the hospital, but considering the regional characteristics, situation and the like. “If the tuition fee costs are increased, a part of the applicants will immediately go to private universities, where no one intends to set the minimum limit of the education cost,” Stanislav Nikolayenko emphasizes, “and private universities cannot replace an agronomist, a zootechnician, a veterinarian, a land surveyor, an engineer, an energy engineer, so they will only take a lawyer, an economist, a journalist and a psychologist. All technical specialties will be indeed kicked abroad. We will actually destroy higher education by doing it. Therefore, it is necessary to act slowly, consider all factors, not only the offers of those who can benefit from it.”

It is interesting that no one has yet normally explained which formula officials use to calculate the cost of a budget-funded education, because, according to one data, it is 29-30 thousand hryvnias per year and based on the data of others – even 45, and taking someone’s words on faith is at least naïve nowadays. That’s the first point. Secondly, the parents, with whom we’ve had the opportunity to communicate, fear that in this case, providing a fee-based education for children will be an unmanageable task. Because, if a daughter wants to become a fashion designer and a son wants to study the landscape design, then can we force these young people to choose a specialty of teacher or engineer this way? This is not the way to increase the prestige of such professions.

At the same time, the parents of the students who obtain the fee-based education immediately raised the question of whether their children’s fee values will be revised if the resolution is adopted. However, this point is now simply overlooked, and then, most likely, it will be a matter of the decision of the universities. But in any case, against the background of total poverty in the state, the introduction of indicative costs for fee-based education is unlikely to give the effect expected in the MES, if the system of the higher education funding is not changed in general.

By Larysa Vyshynska

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