Bill would revive university reforms

MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) will present a bill to reduce the financial and administrative burden on university students to the Knesset for a preliminary vote on Wednesday morning. "I think we must make sure that the rights of the students are known and are anchored in Israeli law," Shalom told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. The bill would require tuition costs at public universities to be fixed in legislation and calls for the establishment of a more robust financial aid system. "I reduced the tuition when I was minister of finance [in the first Sharon government]," Shalom said, adding, "It was [part of] the implementation of the [2001] Winograd Committee recommendations." Those recommendations called for a 50 percent reduction in tuition, a process apparently stalled by Finance Ministry demands that the issue be reexamined by a new committee headed by former finance minister Avraham Shochat. The bill would give students the right to suspend their studies for extended periods and set parameters for retaking exams and appealing the results - all areas currently regulated by the universities. It would also mandate that degrees from different universities be recognized as equal for purposes of employment, preventing employers from choosing candidates based on where they studied. The bill would also reduce students' income tax and public transportation costs by as much as 50 percent.