This means that each university would be able to decide whether or not to raise its tuition next year, or leave it unchanged.
The decision passed the Appropriations Committee despite the request made by Education Minister Yuli Tamir, who is also the acting chairperson of the Council for Higher Education, not to interfere in the tuition debate until the government votes on the matter.
University students have already threatened they will launch protests if tuition fees go up. Universities that choose to raise their tuition fees and no longer implement the 26% discount decided upon by a committee headed by Justice Eliyahu Winograd, are expect to raise their fees by NIS 1000 ($286).Students have pleaded to keep the fees at their current level. The Finance Ministry however called for a 6% increase in tuition for all government-funded universities.
The Appropriations Committee calculated that keeping the fees at their current levels would require the state to earmark an additional NIS 95 million ($27 million) to continue supporting the universities. The already approved budget for 2009 would not be able to accommodate the addition.
Students promise a fight
"As long as the tuition issue remains unresolved, we stand to face a major crisis," warned Appropriations Committee Chairman Steven Stav. Committee members say they have been receiving contradictory instructions from the government. Unless a decision is made soon, the committee warns, the entire academic school year may be in jeopardy.
As for the students, they vow to put up a fight. "If even a single university raises its tuition fees, there will be trouble. The students will take to the streets again", Student Union President Boaz Toporovski.
"We ask of the Appropriations Committee to act in accordance with the wishes of the education minister and freeze the tuition hike, as the government promised. If the position held by the treasury is accepted, then we will act to make sure those demands are met, including the demands to lower lecturers' salaries and cut back on travel expenses abroad", says Toporovski, adding that the Student Union is contemplating the possibility of filing an appeal with the High Court of Justice.