Back to top

Congress rejects int’l student fees in Argentina

President Milei's attempt to introduce international student fees in Argentina has been voted down by congress for breaching the constitution's principle of free and equitable public education. 
February 13 2024
2 Min Read

Right-wing president Javier Milei’s proposal to introduce international students fees in Argentina has been voted down in congress for breaching the constitution’s principle of free and equitable public education. 

Milei’s attempt to introduce international student fees, included as an article in his sweeping Omnibus Bill, was seen by many as the first step in the libertarian president’s dismantling of free education and has sparked debate across Latin America. 

If the bill makes it back to congress, the policy will likely set the government against universities who have long prided themselves on offering free education as enshrined in the Argentine constitution. 

“In Argentina, there has been a strong struggle for the autonomy of public universities and for free and open higher education,” said Sandra Tarquino, director of international relations at Antonio Nariño University and co-founder of the continent’s higher education internationalisation organisation INILAT.

“It is difficult to imagine any public university implementing this option … The cost in reputation and consistency for a country that has carried in Latin America the banner of free public education for all may not offset the revenue from charging tuition,” said Tarquino.

The proposal was a part of the new president’s mammoth Omnibus Bill intended to start transforming the state and the economy, but was dealt a blow when deputies unexpectedly sent the entire bill back to the legislative drawing board last week. 

“It is difficult to imagine any public university implementing this option”

Amid poverty levels of 40% and soaring inflation, many Argentinians consider it reasonable that international students should pay a fee in a system that is financed by national taxpayers. 

But academics have questioned the “lack of evidence of the cost-benefit ratio of the decision”, said Tarquino.  

While Argentina is one of the most popular international study destinations in Latin America, the fees would only apply to non-resident international students who make up around 2% of the student population, with most coming from neighbouring countries. 

In 2022, international students contributed roughly USD $389 million to Buenos Aires’s economy alone, largely due to the tourism associated with visits from family members and friends of the students.

“The total number of students to whom the measure would apply is relatively small, compared to the negative impact that could be caused by the fact that Argentina would cease to be one of the most desired destinations for Latin Americans to pursue higher education,” said Tarquino.

Colombia’s president, Gustavo Petro, said the move would effectively “expel” 20,000 Colombian students, and the Colombian Ministry of Education has suggested reviewing Colombia’s free tuition policy to welcome these students into the Colombian system. 

With state funding accounting for 90% of universities’ revenue in Argentina, the government could threaten to reduce their funding if universities do not comply with the new fees, though this would violate universities’ autonomy as laid out in the constitution. 

“Here we could be entering into a power game to see who is more powerful; universities or the state itself,” Marcelo Rabossi of Torcuato Di Tella University in Buenos Aires told THE. 

Rather than rushing to introduce changes, Rabossi said that Argentina should focus on harnessing the skills of overseas students post-graduation and view them as an investment rather than a cost. 

Add Your Opinion
Show Response
Leave Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *