“Public universities are still free. Any information to the contrary is false,” said Mendonça Filho, minister for education and culture, in a note to the press.
The announcement was made following the repercussions of a constitutional amendment bill allowing public universities to charge for extension courses as well as lato sensu graduate and specialization programs. The piece of legislation has been submitted to Congress for deliberation.
The proposal, which should be subjected to a second round of voting at the Chamber of Deputies, stipulates, however, that programs granting undergraduate as well as master's and doctorate degrees are to remain free.
Charging for extension courses and lato sensu programs will not be mandatory, so universities would be free to decide on whether to adopt the change. As a congressman, Mendonça Filho is among those supporting the move in the lower house.
According to the Ministry of Education, the practice can already be found in universities such as the University of São Paulo (USP), the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), and the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS). The ministry further stressed that undergraduate and graduate programs in public universities are to remain free of charge.
The change was also advocated by former Minister Aloizio Mercadante. He believes it could be a means to raise more funds for higher education. Mercadante supported the creation of a fund from the contribution of former university students.
“The student leaves [the university], and, if he becomes successful and comes from a well-to-do family, why can't he contribute to the university where he studied for free?” he said in an interview with Agência Brasil.
Also under deliberation, this time in the Senate, is a bill outlining the payment of annual fees in public higher education institutions by students from a family with a proven income of over 30 minimum wages. These students would contribute with the average maintenance costs for one student in whatever program they are enrolled in.
The National Students' Union (UNE) and the National Association of Graduate Students (ANPG) have opposed the measure, arguing for free quality education at all levels.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira
Fonte: Agência Brasil.