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Indonesian education ministry criticized over college expense surge response

The Indonesian Ministry of Education faces criticism as college expenses soar. Despite regulations, tuition fees burden students, sparking protests and social media debate. With job market demands escalating, questions arise about the accessibility and fairness of higher education.



(Photo: Tribun Sumsel)

INDONESIA: The Indonesian Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology has been criticized for its response to concerns about the steep rise in college expenses.

The Ministry, represented by the Acting Secretary of the Directorate General of Higher Education, Prof. Tjitjik Sri Tjahjandarie, addressed the issue during a media briefing on “Determining Tuition Fees in State Universities” at the ministry office on Wednesday (15 May).

Addressing the issue, the Ministry emphasized that university fees are regulated and cannot be entirely waived despite widespread student protests across different regions.

The Ministry’s stance prioritizes centralized funding for the 12-year compulsory education program, encompassing elementary, middle, and high school education.

Prof. Tjitjik clarified that tertiary education, which follows upper secondary schooling, is optional, and not every high school graduate is obligated to pursue it.

“Those who want to develop themselves go to college, that is an option, not mandatory. It is different from compulsory education,” Prof. Tjitjik said.

While the government disburses operational assistance for state universities (BOPTN) to alleviate educational operational costs, this assistance does not fully cover tuition fees.

Consequently, tuition fees remain a part of the expenses borne by students, even with government assistance.

BOPTN is distributed based on the total cost of operational expenses for each student per semester, known as the total tuition fee (BKT), determined by individual universities.

Prof. Tjitjik clarified that BOPTN assistance is insufficient to cover all operational needs, necessitating community participation in funding higher education.

She highlighted the significance of mutual cooperation in educating the nation, acknowledging the need for a collaborative effort between the government, educational institutions, and the community.

However, concerns persist regarding the fairness of tuition fee regulations, which limits tuition fees to two levels ranging from IDR 0 to IDR 1 million (US$63).

This regulation primarily benefits underprivileged communities, with only 20 percent of new students eligible for reduced fees.

Instances of perceived injustice, such as those reported at the University of North Sumatra, where tuition fees exceeded family income, raise questions about the adequacy and equity of the current system.

Students protest soaring college tuition fees

Recently, prospective college students have expressed concerns over soaring tuition fees, which are becoming increasingly burdensome.

Furthermore, complaints have surfaced regarding the unequal distribution of tuition fees among different socioeconomic groups, with instances where students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds face disproportionately high fees.

Social media platforms, particularly Twitter, have become hubs for sharing grievances about the significant rise in tuition costs.

One user highlighted staggering increases in fees at state university medical faculties, with fees jumping from IDR 10 million (US$630) in 2023 to IDR 30 million (US$1,880) in 2024.

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medical faculties tuition fees in 2023 (Twitter/acwtivity)

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medical faculties tuition fees in 2024 (Twitter/acwtivity)

Detik Edu reports a sharp rise in fees at a respected state university once known for its affordability.

Despite its reputation, the university faces a sudden fivefold increase in tuition fees, sparking widespread concern among students.

Following protests, recent tuition fee regulations have been overturned, signaling resistance to growing educational costs.

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Netizens voice concerns over high tuition fees

Discussions about the issue have surged on social media platform Twitter, with numerous netizens expressing their views on the exorbitant tuition fees.

One netizen emphasized the importance of fair and reasonable tuition fee distribution, acknowledging that while higher education is not mandatory, accessibility to education should be equitable across all socioeconomic groups.

In a similar vein, another netizen critiqued the discrepancy between the high cost of tuition and the perceived inadequacy of facilities provided by the university.

Netizens debate the role of higher education in job market demands

Many are highlighting the paradox wherein higher education, though not compulsory, is increasingly demanded by job markets, with some positions requiring at least a bachelor’s degree.

One Twitter user pointed out this discrepancy, stating, “Job requirements demand a bachelor’s degree for us to secure decent-paying positions (at least minimum wage).”

Echoing similar sentiments, another user raised the issue of unemployment, questioning the viability of job opportunities for those without bachelor’s or diploma qualifications amidst a challenging market.

Official statistics from February 2024 reveal a concerning unemployment rate in Indonesia, with approximately 7.2 million individuals currently unemployed.


Adding to the discourse, some netizens argue that if higher education isn’t mandatory, the criteria for civil service or employment should reflect this by placing less emphasis on tertiary qualifications.


Additionally, one netizen emphasized the importance of higher education as a human right, particularly as many job vacancies require a bachelor’s degree.

“Poor people also want to live in prosperity,” they stated, raising questions about accessibility to higher education and its implications for social mobility.


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