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Rash Procedure over increasing Tuition fees
  • Bang Hye-jung, Lee Jong-seok
  • 승인 2011.03.07 13:05
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 /Photograph : Lee Jong-seok
   
 
One of the most controversial and sensitive issues facing university students is rising tuition fees and since the beginning of this year it has many students frowning.  Paying annual tuition fees upwards of 3 million won a year is burdensome for many students. Even though some students work part-time they often still struggle to make ends meet.  It seems universities, however, are closing their eyes to this matter and are willing to increase tuition fees this coming year. 

This year, Dongguk University was the highest rate of tuition fee growth at 4.9%, followed by Konkuk University at 4.7%. Many other universities in Seoul have also decided to increase their tuition fees by about 3.0 percent.
A Dongguk official said that “4.9% hike was inevitable, since it has frozen tuition over the last two years.” Students have strongly criticized the school for having the highest increase, just below the limit of 5.1%.

Meanwhile the government had asked universities to freeze tuition fees for the upcoming semester. The president of the ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Lee Ju-ho, gathered the presidents of universities nationwide and asked them to refrain from raising this year’s tuitions. 

Instead, he promised to double the government’s subsidies to those universities that opted to freeze their tuitions this year.  Also, the government set a guide line that urged proper tuition rate increases by no more than 3.0%.  Many university presidents complained about Minister Lee’s guideline and said they would disregard it. 

Konkuk University was the first to take action and raise their tuition fees by 4.7%.   Dongguk then raised its own tuition fees by 4.9%, the highest increase of all Seoul universities.  The Dongguk student’s council strongly opposed the increase and was very critical of the rash decision of the board members.

 

Lame  Tuition  Board

What was learned is that tuition board members seemingly have no power when it comes to a school’s decision to raise tuitions.  Although legally, establishing a board is compulsory, they have little to no effect on tuition fees.  One official of the ministry of Education said, “As you can guess, the function of the board is only to review the school’s plans and to advise them,” adding that  “But, schools can reject the board’s decision and raise tuitions on their own.”

It also appears that schools took advantage of holes in the law while composing members of the board.  The laws do not specify which members should be on the board, so it turns out that school members often dominate them effectually like a toothless lion.

For example, Hanyang University’s tuition board does not found any common point of view, though it already holds six times and confront each other.  In case of Sogang University, they argued with percentage of outside board members, which will greatly affect on the decision of the board.  At Ewha University, student representative did not attend the board, protesting its undemocratic situation. 

 

   
  /Photograph : Lee Jong-seok
   
 

Here at Dongguk circumstances are not much different from that of other universities.  Kwon Ki-hong, the student council president, said “There were little serious discussions by the board members. They just notified us of the percentage of increasing tuitions.”  The student council of Dongguk held a press conference to protest against the board’s dogmatic decision making.

However, the school showed a lukewarm attitude towards the student council’s demands.  Shin Ki-hoon, an official of Strategy and Investment, said “All of the debating is finished by the tuition board. Tuition fees are increasing because they have been frozen for two consecutive years, which has seriously obstructed our academic works.”

 

Dongguk  VS  Sookmyung

<Dongguk University>
Dongguk University’s tuition fees were frozen for the past two years from 2009 to 2010.  This year they will be increasing the highest of all private universities.  Dongguk officials say that the raise in tuition fees is necessary because Dongguk has had difficult financial burdens over the last two years.  The main factor in raising the fees is increased expenses of faculty members and also promotional expenses of relocating the Il-san campus. Most universities are enthusiastic about constructing new buildings and are doing so within their limited budgets.  Dongguk is the exception by placing most of the burden onto their students’ shoulders.

One official from Dongguk said, “For the past two years, it has been difficult to draw up a deficit budget because of frozen tuition.  Furthermore, our limited budget could not be satisfied using only our savings.  Increasing tuition fees by 4.9 % is unavoidable” and he added, “Please try to understand the school’s unavoidable side of things.” 
This last year, Dongguk launched a new scholarship program that is voluntarily sponsored by students’ parents.  The funds were to be used as supplemental assistance for those students who were in needy circumstances.  Dongguk has tried to supplement students’ financial burdens through this new scholarship system.  This benefit, of course, applies to only a vast minority of students. 

“One major element of developing a successful university is by selecting good freshman, but tuition increases could negatively affect this process.”  Joo Young-hoon, a sophomore of Industrial and System Engineering, said.
 Also Jang Hye-jung, in the department of History Education, said, “It’s irrational when a school just forces its students to pay increased tuition fees without acceptable explanations.”

<Sookmyung Women’s University>
Sookmyung Women’s University  president Young-sil Han has frozen tuition fees for their third consecutive year.  Young Sil Han said tuition fees in 2011 were frozen by the university because of its obligation to share the parents’ economic suffering.


*Freezing tuition fees in 2009:  Sookmyung conducted a survey to gain knowledge of their students’ household budgets due to the serious economic downturn.  They also launched a ‘special scholarship for tuition reimbursement’ helping students who were having financial difficulties.  Besides freezing tuition fees they also expanded the scholarship program budget from 700 million to 2.7 billion won. 

*Freezing tuition fees in 2010:  In 2010, despite the positive economic outlook, the actual economic sentiment of consumers was worsening.  Sookmyung froze tuition fees in order to help the burden of household budgets.  Sookmyung also took steps to reduce needless expenditures even though the school faced financial pressures.  In 2010, the budget for the scholarship program increased by 14%.  The budget for their scholarship program in support of the needy raised an additional 2.8 billion won.  They also increased various scholarships for freshmen.

*Freezing tuition fees in 2011:  Sookmyung Women’s University said tuition fees were frozen once again to help with parents’ economic suffering.  One official emphasized that Sookmyung University would continue to provide the best service in education, social volunteering and research activities regardless of their frozen tuition fees.

An Sookmyung official said, “We will continue to invest in our educational programs and research activities.  At the same time, we will keep in a tight money policy for securing shortage funds. Sookmyung will spare no efforts to scholarships and students’ expenses.  We will postpone purchasing tools and materials as well as expanding our facilities for one year. 

Besides these activities, there are many ways that we can diversify our profit structure.  Despite the fact that we have consecutively frozen tuition fees for three years, there are some students who insist that this is not enough and that we should also reduce them.”  The Sookmyung official continued,  “We are planning on solving students’ reasonable suggestions together.”  Lee Hyun-jung, a student of Economics said,  “The tuition fee crisis is not applicable to Sookmyung Women’s University and this is cheerful news to me. I hope tuition fees will remain frozen forever. ”

Still, it seems universities are unable to please everyone regardless of their good intentions.  Choi Seo-young, a student of Social Science of Communication said, “When I the heard news, I was very glad.  But, after more thought, I realized this was only fair and it would be better still if they found a way to reduce tuition fees altogether.”  

 

Tuitions  decreased  2.8%

This last November, a 21-year-old female university student killed herself after agonizing over her tuition fees.  In February, a 53-year-old man jumped off his apartment building after suffering constant anxiety about being unable to pay his daughter’s course costs.  On January 14th, a 19-year-old college student was arrested after stealing goods from supermarkets and bookstores.  He said he wanted to study but economic hardship had hindered his enthusiasm.

 

   
  /Photograph : Lee Jong-seok
   
 

Measures to stabilize university tuition fees are urgently needed.  The KHEI, which has recently published a book about college fees increasing at an insanely rapid pace, suggested that universities find new investment models to replenish their coffers.  “Tuition freezes are not a fundamental solution.  The government needs to be hands-on regarding the matter since tuition is nothing of a private issue and could be a huge burden and threat for the next generation,” said a researcher at the KHERI. 

On the other hand, Dongguk needs to communicate with its students about tuition fees.  Most students want to communicate with school truly.  If school has an opinion which decrease tuitions at 2.8% is the best solution, they are mistaken idea.  Kwon Ki-hong, the student council president said, “Dongguk officials unilaterally push policies, especially when related to tuition fees and this has to change. It is incorrect behavior.  Dongguk should adopt an earnest and compromising attitude.”

Bang Hye-jung, Lee Jong-seok  bhj9154@dongguk.edu bigbell414@dongguk.edu

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