Monday, May 12, 2008 | 9:19 p.m. ET     
+Login    +Register    +Find Id / Pw Home  l  Archives  l  Learning Times  |  Sitemap  |  Subscription  l  Media Kit  l  PDF
    Home > Newszone > Special > Issue Today >
  Arts & Living
    Photo News  
    Embassy Row  
    Foreign Community  
    Meet the Future  
    Issue Today  
    World News  
    Hi Seoul  
    Korea Today  
    Country Report  
    57th Anniversary Special  
    Trend 2008  
    New Year Special  
    Global Korea  
    Presidential Inauguration  
  Learning Times
  Global Reporters
  The Learning Times
     Editorial Listening
     Easy Korean Series
     Dear Abby
     Domestic News
     Foreign News
     Screen English
     Grasping Vocab
  Jobs for Koreans
  Jobs for Foreigners
   03-10-2008 17:28
College Tuition Outgrowing Inflation

Members of a coalition of civil organizations opposing tuition increases present a skit depicting the burden of increasing college tuition on students and their parents, at Yonsei University in Seoul, last Thursday. / Yonhap

By Kim Sue-young
Staff Reporter

With the beginning of the new semester, universities became crowded with freshmen looking forward to a lively campus life. Their expectations were cut short, however, due to high tuition.

Jung Chan-yang, 19, who enrolled at Aju University in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, felt guilty about her parents paying about 4.9 million won per semester.

``All I can say is that it is `expensive.' My goal was to get into the chemistry department and then apply for the graduate school of medicine. But this is too much of an obstacle,'' she said.

For the last 10 years, the annual tuition for private universities has increased by 70 percent on average. Now they charge about 10 million won annually on average.

Compared to schools in the United States or Britain, the amount that universities here charge may be inexpensive. But students in South Korea complain that schools here offer lower-quality programs.

They pointed out no universities here are listed on the world's top 100 schools list.

More complaints are arising that university graduation no longer guarantees employment.

``We can't say that tuition is `cheap' here by just comparing it to the $20,000 to 30,000 that U.S. universities charge. The per capita income there is much higher than Korea,'' Jung said.

Some universities claim that a tuition hike is unavoidable due to inflation and the financial stability needed to manage schools.

This year, Chungnam National University in Daejeon increased school fees by 37 percent and Chonbuk National University in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, by 27.8 percent.

Prominent universities in Seoul also raised tuition by about 6-10 percent.

Many students and parents, however, disapproved of the rises in tuition costs.

They said the rate is ``murderous'' compared to the inflation rate of 2-3 percent.

According to Rep. Choi Soon-young of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), the inflation rate was 4.1 percent in 2001 and the tuition increase of state-funded universities reached 5.9 percent.

The difference between the two figures has since widened. Tuition costs rose 9.4 percent despite 3.6 percent inflation in 2004.

Last year, the gap was 7.7 percent as universities increased school fees by 10.2 percent.

People also criticize universities' excuses for tuition hikes, given enormous balances left in schools' accounts.

According to the civic group People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, 59 universities in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province accumulated a total of 628.4 billion won (approximately $656.3 million) in 2006.

The report noted universities tend to overestimate tuition and then pile up surplus funds.

Universities have raised school fees claiming it as their only source of revenue to maintain facilities and hire professors.

Amid the few signs of economic revival, increased tuition heavily weighs on parents and results in self-supporting students quit school or take leave of absence.

According to a survey jointly conducted by student unions at the University of Incheon and Inha University, 85 percent of 912 respondents said they are considering taking leave of absence or already have taken them due to financial difficulties.

Protest Against Tuition Hike

Raging students and civic groups nationwide protest universities increasing tuition at such high rates.

A students' association has staged rallies since Jan. 5, urging the government and universities to cut school fees.

Parents and citizens also created a joint group last month to help students and demonstrate against price hikes.

Political circles, which have neglected the problem or merely spat condemnation, began to roll up their sleeves to ease parents' financial burdens.

DLP lawmaker Choi suggested creating a price ceiling of one-semester tuition at 1.5 million won.

``For the middle class, the current tuition level is too high to deal with. Annual tuition reaching 10 million won labels most students as credit delinquents once they graduate from university.

``The price ceiling is to limit tuition based on the average of three-year income. As of 2007, the average income is estimated at 3.7 million won,'' Choi said.

She submitted the proposal one year ago but it's still pending at the National Assembly.

The main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) also presented a similar idea to help solve the money problem.

Party Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu said, ``Now is the time that the government should deal with the tuition issue. It should start delayed payment and price ceiling systems as soon as possible.''

UDP Spokesman Choi Jae-sung urged the governing Grand National Party to cooperate in deliberating and approving a proposal on tuition that Rep. Chung Bong-ju submitted in September 2006.

He suggested banning universities from raising tuition 1.5 times higher than the average inflation over the last three years and mandate universities to report to the education ministry for exceptions.

The ministry is considering adopting easy loan systems for students. Under the system, borrowers can gradually pay back in accordance with their salary after they get a job.

University in foreign countries is expensive but offers various ways to lighten financial burden, such as interest-free loans and tax reimbursement.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced last Friday that it would cover all tuition for families earning less than $75,000, which benefited about 30 percent of MIT students.


Reader's Comments
Notice From KT Website Manager
Bad language will not be tolerated. All comments considered discriminatory against race or sex, or which are considered offensive against certain people, will be eliminated by the manager. Violators will be deprived of their membership. Should problems continue we have no choice but to block all comment postings. We appreciate your understanding.
philly   (   03-12-2008 07:52
That's an insane amount of money for a Korean university. No wonder parents send their kids overseas, there's only a small difference in price and a huge difference in quality.
Managerial regulations
◀ Back  Top