SANTIAGO – Half of all Chilean graduating high school students who attend college this year will not have to pay or go into debt to study there, according to figures published Wednesday by the Education Ministry.
This amounts to a total of 40,134 students.
The benefit also will apply to the 80,163 students enrolled in higher education courses, resulting in a preliminary total of 120,000 students who will not have to pay anything for their college studies.
However, this figure is far below the government’s initial projection of 180,000 students, who it says will benefit from the ambitious educational reform pushed by the administration of President Michelle Bachelet.
Acting Education Minister Valentina Quiroga told reporters that the estimate is that the total number of students who will benefit from free tuition this year will be about 160,000, and therefore another 40,000 places remain to be filled by May.
Student organizations criticized the delay in preparing the list, since this will mean that many students will begin their academic studies in March without knowing if they will have to pay tuition or take out loans to attend classes.
University education was free in Chile up until 1981, when the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship simplified the requirements for the creation of private universities, which soon numbered more than 40 and which – in the free market system – may charge what they want for the educational services they offer.
Many students at that point had to begin going into debt to pay for their studies, while many private institutions reduced the academic entry requirements such that the number of university students increased to the current level of slightly over 1 million.