Hanoi parents brace for tuition hikes

By Thanh Hang, Duong Tam   May 27, 2022 | 05:45 am PT
Hanoi parents brace for tuition hikes
Parents drop off their children at an elementary school in Hanoi in February 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Chieu
When Ngoc Sen returned home after nearly four hours of cleaning houses, she was taken aback when her daughter who is in sixth grade said "tuition fees could double."

After a year of not raising tuition fees due to the impacts of Covid-19, the Hanoi people's council passed a resolution on May 20 to hike public preschool and high school tuition fees for the 2022-23 academic year.

The fees would double at first and subsequently increase by 20-40 percent every year.

Sen, 43, lives in Hanoi’s Ha Dong District with her husband and two daughters, the other in 10th grade. She cleans houses for hourly wages while her husband is a laborer.

They pay the highest tuition rate since their household registration is in Region 1, which comprises the capital’s inner districts.

In addition, she may be required to pay VND300,000 ($12.93) per child per month for the following academic year, which is 1.4-2 times the current fee.

Tuition fees for middle and high schools in Region 1 will gradually rise over the next three years to VND410,000, VND530,000, and VND650,000, respectively.

Meanwhile, Sen and her husband's incomes fluctuate every month: Sometimes they earn up to VND14 million but there are times when they only earn half of that.

At the moment the monthly cost of education for the two children is VND5-6 million.

Amid the sharp rises in food and gas prices and possibly school fees, Sen has to do a side job as an online salesperson to make ends meet.

Duc Nhan, who lives in the outskirt district of Phuc Tho, may be required to pay tuition of VND300,000 per month for her two children in grades seven and 10 for the upcoming year.

Since hers is a low-income family, she is entitled to a 50 percent fee reduction, but even the VND150,000 she will have to pay is 1.5-2 times the current fees.

"I can cover the tuitions, but it will make my life a little harder," says the single mother who earns a meager income of VND5-6 million a month at a garment factory.

In the face of rising prices, she has to squeeze out every dong she makes to cover household expenses.

The start of the school year is always a difficult time for her because there are many expenses for her children.

Nhan, who is unfamiliar with decrees or policies, has been expecting tuitions to go up sooner or later since the prices of everything else have skyrocketed.

"Covid-19 continues to have an impact on many people's incomes this year, including mine. I think it will be reasonable to delay tuition hikes for one or two years."

The principal of a secondary school in Hanoi says she understands the difficulties and economic pressures that low-income families face. But she believes the government has helped them by waiving and reducing fees, making the burden somewhat bearable.

She says the hikes should not pose much of a problem for the middle and higher classes, because "the level of spending on extra classes for their children is much higher than the tuitions."

From a management point of view, she believes that increasing the fees is necessary to improve the quality of teaching in schools and provide students with a better learning environment, pointing out that 60 percent of the fees will be used for school activities and supplies and 40 percent teachers’ salaries.

Explaining the fee increase, Dao Hai Yen, deputy head of the city Department of Education and Training’s financial planning department, says the proposal is in line with the government's new tuition fee framework.

The people's councils of provinces and cities will determine the specific fees for each school in each locality based on the framework.

Hanoi intends to apply the lowest levels of tuition for all regions and levels in the first year before increasing them in subsequent years.

Yen says the government's regulations allow localities to raise tuitions by up to 7.5 percent a year. Thus, by 2025, the monthly fee ceiling in urban areas will be VND670,000 for preschools and VND806,000 for middle and high schools.

By 2026 a new tuition fee decree will be issued, and the framework will once again have different minimum and maximum levels.

"Because Hanoi has adopted the minimum rate in 2022, if subsequent years' increases are too small, its tuitions will be much below the ceiling," Yen explains.

But in Ho Chi Minh City the difference between the current and proposed fees is up to five times, she says.

"It is said to increase sharply, but the tuition fees Hanoi is expected to have in 2025 will only be equal to the government's 2022 ceiling."

In a VnExpress survey on May 22 of the expected tuition fee increase in Hanoi, 80 percent of readers said it is excessive, 11 percent believed it is reasonable but should be delayed and only 9 percent thought it is appropriate.

Bich Lien, who is in the minority of 9 percent, approves the hike but expects the quality of education and facilities to improve.

Lien and her husband, who live in Dong Da District, think that their eighth grade daughter's tuition fee increase from VND155,000 to VND300,000 is "reasonable."

But she is concerned about how the money will be spent.

"I hope the damaged items and tools will be repaired or replaced by the school."

She says the most effective way to persuade parents of the effectiveness of the tuition fee increases is to show them their children are getting a better study environment.

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