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Special Report on Dongguk Scholarship System



In the last presidential election, Lee Myeong-bak pledged, as part of his election campaign, to "cut all university tuition fees by half”. After getting elected, however, many citizens, not only students but also ordinary citizens have bitterly complained about why he hasn’t kept his promise. University tuition fees have always been one of the biggest social issues in our society because of the financial burden lay on students. Most university students have to take part time jobs or apply for government or bank loans in order to pay for their high tuition fees.  However, some students still can’t meet the costs. One university student tried to find the means to pay, but, unfortunately, couldn’t find a way.  He finally chose to commit suicide on March 11th.
The high cost of tuition is a heavy burden for students.  For this reason, almost all universities provide scholarships to help their students. Through these scholarship programs, some students are able to solve the tuition problem.  Additionally, by winning a scholarship, it helps improve a student's career prospects.
For this reason, winning a scholarship is something that is of immediate concern to every student.   DU has provided many such scholarships to students.  According to a survey made by university news network in 2008, DU was ranked 9th in the table of private universities providing scholarships.  This year, the number of students who received at least one scholarship is estimated to be 19,178 - including Dongguk’s Kyeong-ju campus. As the chart below shows, the amount of money spent for this is estimated to be 24,762,858 thousand won.

The Scholarship situation at DU

1) The campus scholarships

Most colleges at DU provide students with two scholarships: the scholarship for excellent grade and the scholarship for those in financial crisis.  However, some colleges provide only one of these (with reference to the graph above). For example, the Buddhist Studies Department does not provide a grade scholarship for their students.  Instead, they only provide the scholarship for those in financial assistance.  Likewise, the College of Life Science provides a grade scholarship only.
Requirements for receiving scholarships can slightly vary depending on a student’s major.  It is recommended to ask for information on grants in your college office or from a professor.  Kim Mi-kyeong, a staff member of the campus scholarship affairs, advised: "when it comes to the campus scholarships, a student's GPA (Grade Point Average) is the most vital way of obtaining a scholarship. Aside from the welfare scholarship programs, this is the only way to check eligibility."

2) off-campus scholarships

DU also provides off-campus scholarships. There are some nice scholarship systems for students: For example, a North-America training scholarship, a Buddhist youth scholarship, and an Inquiry Abroad scholarship.
The North-America training scholarship was founded by Kim Kyeong-jae, an alumnus of DU.  The advantage of this program is that students can enhance their knowledge and experience by traveling around North America and thereby meeting many alumni of DU.  Any student who has ambition or concrete plans about studying abroad is eligible for this scholarship. Lee Min-ho, a major is English Lang. & Lit., said, "Through this scholarship program, I was able to meet many respectable alumni; this stimulated my thinking.  Moreover, I decided to be an alumnus who would help juniors in return.  I hope the opportunity will progressively become more comprehensive.”
Secondly, the Buddhist youth scholarship should be treated in detail.  It was founded by many temples as well as “Chong Mu-won”.  The main goal of this scholarship is to train devout Buddhist students.  For this reason, it is only awarded to Buddhists who have taken part in 'Dong-bul' and other Buddhist ceremonies.  Such students can apply for this scholarship; the beneficiaries may receive a million won for each semester - on condition that they keep participating in Buddhist ceremonies - until they graduate from school.  This is quite unusual, in the sense that students who win this scholarship can also apply for other scholarships.
Lastly, there is an Inquiry Abroad scholarship.  Students can develop their own major as well as helping DU to booster its reputation.  DU has supported the beneficiaries by giving airfares as well as other help. Cho Rye-jin, a beneficiary of the scholarship program, said,  “All that matters is that applicants should prepare their own plans before the scholarship notice is posted on the bulletin board or web-site.  Additionally, they have to find an original main research subject.  It is also worth pointing out the other two aims of the plan: 1) to have a sense of accomplishment in your academic field; 2) to publicize DU in foreign countries.”

The scholarship problems at DU

 In spite of the positive points mentioned in the above, Donggukians still have complaints about the scholarship system.  The complaints are that the scholarship web-site hasn't been updated and that the scholarship consulting process is not up to date.  Scholarships that are heavily biased toward Buddhism are generally regarded as the biggest problem of its kind.
It means that many Donggukians who don't have any connections with Buddhism have fewer scholarships available to them.  For this situation, Shin Ji-hyeong, a staff member of the off-campus scholarship affairs, made the excuse that "it's a known fact that the school provides more scholarships for Buddhism than any of others.  This is because many people and institutions donating to DU scholarships want their beneficiaries to be devout Buddhists."  This can be seen from the fact that a scholarship for the College of Buddhism will have a much higher tuition reduction rate than other scholarships.


Other universities’ situation

To make comparison with other schools, Yon-sei University has provided the "Shin-mun-go" system for their students since 2006.  This is an email consultation system for students who have problems or questions about the scholarship system. According to the Yon-sei University scholarship center, about 100 students use the program every semester.  Additionally, they have supported low-income students with various grant systems: For example, "han-ma-eum scholarship", "overcoming crisis scholarship" and "shin-mun-go scholarship".
Yon-sei gives the above scholarships only to those who don’t have any record of receiving other scholarships.  Regarding "Shin-mun-go scholarship", a student who is unable to file for a government loan system because of low credit rating can apply this program. A staff member of the Yon-sei University scholarship center explained that this acts as a final insurance for low-incomers.  "It is nonsense to say that students can't take up their study because of tuition.  To be able to grant a scholarship is the most needed policy for students of low income families. That’s the reason why school is planning to expand this kind of scholarship," he added.
When it comes to Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS), a Flex scholarship is provided for its students (Flex is a kind of English test like TOEIC  which was developed by HUFS). The school selects students according to the FLEX scores every semester. The advantage of a FLEX scholarship is that students can apply for it along with other scholarships.  But each student can receive this program only once; this is because HUFS wants to provide the opportunity to many students. "Nowadays”, a school officer explained, “English ability is very important for every student. So many students try to win this scholarship. This tendency is reflected in the original goal for this program: improving student's English ability and providing a scholarship for them at the same time".
Compared with other universities, ’Sook-myeong Woman’s University has created several particular scholarships for their students. In other words, its students can win scholarship in a variety of ways. For example, there is a “21st century Sook-myeong leadership scholarship”, a “venture-support scholarship”, and a “millennium scholarship”. 

Future of the Dongguk scholarship system

DU was founded on the principle of building up a student’s character through the nurturing of Buddhist virtues. For this reason, many students who show empathy for Buddhism will have numerous scholarship opportunities.  However, students who have little to do with Buddhism will receive less opportunity.  The main criticism of this is that there aren’t enough scholarships to encourage more secular fields at DU. There are many kinds of off-campus scholarships, but not enough to offset them against the afore-mentioned problems. What is more, the requirements or standards of the beneficiaries are unknown to students.
Though everyone has an opinion on the problem, a solution may lie in attracting donors who will offer financial resources in diverse spheres. The main purpose of this would be to broaden the scholarship applicants range.  "We are trying to do that. We want to attract people or groups by meeting their requirements.  Since each of them wants different types of students, we have to select those who are suitable for each requirement," said Shin Ji-hyeong, a staff member of the Off-campus scholarship affairs
Last but not least, the critical point about scholarship system depends on notifying students with detailed scholarship information as frequently as possible. "No matter how much notice we gave of the scholarships, it was useless. We used to send E-mails and SMS to students, but some still didn’t know about them," said Kim Mi-kyeong, a staff member of the campus scholarship affairs. "As a solution, we are thinking of giving more detailed information about the scholarships on the homepage."
Special cares should be taken in improving the scholarship system to satisfy Donggukians. Therefore, DU should try to improve its information outlay better. 

Social Desk Editor Kim Ji-heon

Post Reporter Yun Seon-ju

Kim Ji-heon, Yun Seon-ju  kim556@dongguk.edu

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