The abolition of university admission fee was one of President Moon Jae-in’s campaign promises in 2017. In the middle of July, as the advisory committee announced its administrative agenda including the content of admission fee, the abolition of admission fee has been formalized. However, the proposed abolition schedule progressed slowly than the government first intended. Although the government, private universities, and university students had several consultations, they had to go through obstacles to narrow the opinion gap.
Difficult negotiation process between the government and private universities
Unlike national universities which decided earlier to abolish admission fee until next year, private universities needed to discuss the issue as they receive substantial amount of money from admission fee. On September 1st, private universities formed the “Committee for Improvement of Private University Admission Fee System” which included ten deans of the office of planning from private universities. They acknowledged that they did not use the fee solely for the admission-related expenses which is called “Actual Expense of Admission.” Then, they agreed on abolishing the admission fee gradually.
The committee and the government had two meetings: the first on September 15th and the second on the 28th, where they discussed incentives as an offer from the government to universities, and the ways to abolish admission fee. Through this relatively smooth process, on October 13th, the Ministry of Education reported that they made a settlement with the Korean Association of Private University Presidents (KPU) to abrogate the admission fee except for 20 percent which is the actual expense of admission used for entrance ceremonies, orientations, and some others.
However, the KPU changed their position by saying that they need to increase 1.5 percent of tuition fee next year to recover the loss from abolishing admission fee. Since the government refused to accept this increase in tuition, the meeting scheduled for the 27th with the Minister of Education was cancelled and negotiations went back to square one.
The settlement has been reached with students’ participation
Fortunately, the KPU withdrew the increase of tuition and discussions could have been reopened. Unlike the previous ones in the past, the new discussion proceeded with the participation of student representatives on November 2nd in the Korea Student Aid Foundation office of Seoul. On that day, each of three representatives from the ministry, the KPU, and students just showed its own position without deciding clear directions of the abolition problem.
The second discussion, held a week later, had no big difference with the previous one. Lee Gyeong-eun, the member of the Association of University Student Council Network, said, “The government and the KPU keep saying the proportion of the admission fee can be admitted as the name of ‘actual expenses.’ We contend that admission fee cannot be accepted in any way.”
Then, on November 24th, they finally made a settlement and the Ministry of Education announced the terms of settlement. The private universities should abolish 80 percent of the admission fee except 20 percent, which is actual expense, within four to five years. National universities will abolish the whole admission fee next year. Students need not to bear the burden of the admission fee anymore. The government is going to provide the State Scholarship to students of as much as they pay for the actual expenses from 2022. Before that, private universities will reduce the 80 percent of the fee gradually. It was also agreed to support finances to universities actively as their income decreases. Accordingly, the three interested parties had made quite satisfying arrangement at last.
Admission Fee System, Moving Toward the Abolishment
Continued efforts of university students influenced on the result of abrogation
Lack of justification to maintain admission fee in their current form
The reason why the admission fee is related to such controversies is that the admission fee varies from school to school with no exact standard in pricing. Moreover, there is also no legislation to state its own standard. According to a survey from the Ministry of Education, the average admission fee of private universities is 770 thousand won, which is about five times more than that of national universities. Especially, Dongguk University has the highest fee, 1,024 thousand won, and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Korea University and others followed after it. However, Incheon Catholic University does not have admission fee and some universities such as Honam University have about 500 thousand won, which is almost a half of Dongguk University’s.
Admission Fee Usages of Private Universities
The Ministry of Education investigated the usages of admission fee of 80 private universities to find out how much the actual expense in admission takes up. Only about 15 percent of the fee is used idrectly for admission.
|/information sources by the Ministry of Education|
Article 1, Section 1 of the Higher Education Act states, “The founder and manager can receive tuition fee and additional payment.” Based on this article, universities collected admission fee under the name of “additional payment” and managed the accounting of tuition and admission fee together. That is, it is almost impossible to know how and where the admission fee is used. Last year the People’s Solidarity for the Participatory Democracy Youth Council (PSPD Youth Council) asked for the information from 34 universities about the usage of admission fee. Among 28 universities that responded to the request, 26 universities did not have any pricing standard and details of expenditures.
Furthermore, as there are almost no usage details, on October, the Ministry of Education announced the details they had collected from 80 universities. According to the announcement, it was revealed that only about 30 percent of admission fee was used for “admission” including event costs of five percent, expense of support for freshmen at 8.7 percent and of managing the admission department at 14.2 percent. Even if the standard of actual expense in admission is not precisely set, it is certain that considerable amount of money is used for things unrelated to the admission. The member in charge of the office of budgeting of Dongguk University said, “Admission fee takes considerable part of university’s income and it is used only for education after all. Eventually, we, private universities, cannot avoid the huge financial burden fee without any financial aids.”
It took a long time for universities to the abolishment
As the argument over abolishing university admission fee had been continued, each university reacted in different ways. Following the government’s policy regarding university admission fee, Kunsan National University firstly announced to abolish its admission fee among national universities. Then, on August 17th, all of the 41 national universities had resolved to abolish admission fee and also to lower screening fees from next year in the regular general meeting of the Association of National University Presidents.
Following the example of other national universities, the University of Suwon also decided to remove its admission fee from next year for the first time among the private universities. Lee Moon-haeng, the Dean of Public Relations of University of Suwon, said, “We decided to abolish admission fees to meet governmental and social needs and relieve the burden which students and their parents have from university tuition fees. In fact, we were concerned about going ahead unlike other private universities in the situation where consultation between the KPU and the Ministry of Education did not go well at that time, but we thought this decision can make positive effects throughout the country.” She added, “Our university, luckily, has been preparing for this kind of situation from ten years ago, so now we have quite a stable financial situation. Therefore, we can bear the financial loss without increasing tuition fee or reducing educational investment.”
However, considering the fact that most private universities originally calculated their admission fee over four times on average than that of national universities, it took a long time for many private universities to decide abolishment of their admission fee. In this context, the KPU refused the government’s demand that private universities should submit their plans to reduce admission. It also made their voices of strong disapproval on the matter for a certain period of time. The member of the office of budgeting of Dongguk University said, “In the case of Dongguk University, the risk of abolishing admission fee is quite big, which is almost five billion won. Therefore, if we have to bear all of the financial loss, it can cause educational degradation. Moreover, I think it is inevitable for private universities to follow the government’s policy since it is holding the matter of government subsidies.”
Then, finally, the matter of abolishing admission fee came to the agreement. Accordingly, private universities decided to abolish admission fee in order with 20 percent of financial support, which is equivalent to the actual expenses for admission. In this way, the universities could relieve financial burden, which was their big concern. According to the agreement, each private university is going to discuss countermeasures and decide detailed plans afterward.
Students demanded immediate abolition of admission fee
|The members of the Association of University Student Council Network is holding a press conference contenting that admission fee of private universities should be abolished in front of the office of Korea Student Aid Foundation.|
|/photography from the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy|
Since last year, some movements doubting university admission fee and demanding its abolition have been risen from a variety of sectors. Accordingly, university students and civic groups had been sharing interests with each other. Continually, with the current government’s will to decrease the burden on university students, such movements are growing and increased actively.
University students started to unite from the General Student Council (GSC) and in a bid to support their efforts, the Association of University Student Council Network has been established. On October 23rd, the association held a press conference in Gwanghwamun Plaza and criticized the KPU. In addition, they announced a statement “Requesting the Immediate Abolition of University Admission Fee and Denunciating Against the KPU” with the GSCs from 21 university units. They also gathered signatures from university students to join their stance. As a result, they collected 3,700 students’ support signatures and submitted them in the day of the second meeting. Lee Gyeong-eun, the member of the Association of University Student Council Network, commented, “The government and private universities should not shift responsibility on students anymore and admission fee must be totally abolished. The Association of University Student Council Network will make a voice with many university students to repeal admission fee and solve problems of tuition fee.”
The GSC of Dongguk University, which also belongs to the Association of University Student Council Network, announced the statement together, informed to Donggukians, and collected their signatures through its Facebook Page. Kim Jeong-min, the chairperson of the GSC, commented, “I think private universities should show their will toward the abolishment of admission fee, not changing their stances situationally. Moreover, the government should increase higher education finance so that the universities do not have to suffer from financial problems directly. Those two things should be done simultaneously and we, do not have to make a concession.”
As it was decided to abolish admission fee gradually, students indicated various stances. Kim Jun-kyeom (Freshman, North Korea Studies Major) said, “I am glad that admission fee abolishment has been agreed. However, the school should reveal the detailed usage of admission fee usage which I had already paid.” In addition, the chairperson Kim commented, “I am pleased about the agreement to abolish admission fee. Also, I hope that students’ burden can be relieved by revising Higher Education Act.” He additionally mentioned, “We will discuss the matter of admission fee at the upcoming Tuition Fee Review Commission and decide concrete time for the abolishment. We are also going to prepare for the commission with the next term GSC.”
Civic groups supported students’ opinion to repeal admission fee
Not only university students, but also several civic groups also supported their activities. For instance, the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), Minbyun – Lawyers for a Democratic Society, and other civic groups had a picketing event urging the abolishment of university admission fee in front of the building where the conference among university presidents took place. Shim Hyun-duk, the coordinator of the Center for People’s Livelihood Improvement in the PSPD, said, “We are contending that the admission fee of private universities must be abolished, just like the opinion of university students because its estimated value and spending are uncertain.” He added, “I think the matter is socially agreed already since every candidate for previous presidential election showed their promise about the matter. So, we are taking actions with the Association of University Student Council Network and other civic groups.”
Recently, following the government’s policy to repeal admission fee partially in stages, several universities decided to abolish their admission fee directly from next year. In addition, the other private universities also agreed with the suggestion to abolish admission fee and decided to reduce the fee partially with the financial aid from the government. Even though the controversy surrounding university admission fee has been settled for the time being, a lot of conflicts of opinion had been made constantly. The Association of University Student Council Network made its position saying, “The concurrence could be made thanks to the students’ interest and consistent actions.” On the other hand, it expressed their inconvenience that they could not stick to their original stance, which contented the immediate abolishment of admission fee.
Kim Min-ji, Seo Yoo-jeong email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
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