President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet talks during a breakfast with the students who earned national score in the University Selection Test at La Moneda in Santiago, Chile on December 27, 2015. (Photo : Sebastián Vivallo Oñate/Agencia Makro/LatinContent/Getty Images)
Through President Michelle Bachelet’s relentless efforts, university education in Chile will finally be available for free. The Chilean head of state has expressed that free higher education is a right, and not merely a gift.
Fox News Latino reported that free higher education in Chile will become effective in 2016. Over the past 35 years, all students had been required to pay tuition. Telesur revealed that Chilean Minister of Interior Rodrigo Peñailillo announced in December 2015 that university education will be free the following year. The news comes after students marched on the streets, protesting that education should be offered for free throughout the country.
“We always believed that education is a right and the fact that we are moving ahead strongly in that direction fills us with joy,” President Bachelet said.
About 165,000 students will be able to attend university for free during the first year of the benefit. Several schools will be offering free education, including the University of Chile. Bachelet added that she would have preferred for more young individuals to avail of the free higher education benefit, but they also have to consider the country’s current economic situation.
In 2015, Chile’s economic growth dropped by about two percent and is expected to taper off more in 2016. Nevertheless, Bachelet encouraged students to avail of the new benefit, with the government compensating their efforts to start university education, based on the same Fox News Latino report.
Mainly, households with an income of not more than 180,000 pesos ($250) per month per family member are preferred to avail of free higher education in Chile.
The Guardian wrote that Bachelet aims to solve serious inequality throughout the nation through a new constitution, supported by tax reform and free schooling. Bachelet stated that they have fewer resources and overestimated the ability of the state and political system to achieve extensive structural reforms within a short period of time.
The Chilean president needed to change her strategy, such as introducing free education gradually, from 2016 to 2020. The poorest students were intended to be preferred. Although the original plan was to accommodate 70 percent of those who cannot or can hardly afford university, they had to reduce it to 60 percent. Several adjustments were made, with the objective of raking in $8.3 billion, or almost three percent of GDP, to fund free education.
More updates and details regarding free university in Chile are expected soon.