On January 28, there was a loud cry in front of Bosingak. "Universities and the government are recklessly increasing tuition fees, being ignorant of the hardships student are going through," cried Ahn Jin-gul, the director of the Hope for Public Livelihood team of the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy. Students from the Korea Student Associaton (KSA) also joined Ahn's cause to fight for their own rights. The assembled students erupted in cheers as student presidents from schools Sogang and Soongsil University railed. They shouted about the irresponsible attitude schools and the governments have been adopting. The nation once again witnessed a candle-light vigil that was one honored by the country's youth. Thus, the temporary lull in the crossfire once again shattered into a pitched battle.
The War in HYU
Hanyang University (HYU) is no exception from this battle field. On January 12, HYU released a statement to the General Students Association (GSA) announcing its unilateral intentions to increase tuition fees by 2.9 percent.
The GSA's Tuition Fee Deliberation Committee (TFDC) was still holding conferences regarding of tuition stability. Needless to say, the GSA was not pleased. School authorities handed over their 2010 budget and 2011 pre-budget report as grounds for their tuition sake. However, the GSA could not accept these as the budget estimates and actually expenditures showed a marked difference. The the GSA made its first move on January 24, protesting in front of HYU's administration building.
Before the start of semesters, there are small and large protests formed by civic groups or students on the issue of tuition fees year after year. "There is a reason why the fight never ends. Students are too passive dealing with this situation. Also, schools are engrossed with making profits and the government is not making policies that would essentially aid students deal with high tuition fees," said Park Hee-rim, a member of the Korean Association of Student's Rights (KAST).
The tuition fee stalemate is not a mere haggle between schools and students. Government intervention is also crucial issue that needs to be addressed. To put in more accel, students must be at the center of the war. There should be a stimulus by the students that can encourage the acceleration to overcome the bar that is blocking the key to end this struggle.
Passive Behavior into Self-righteous School
Students are little inclined to participate in tuition fee crusades. This has encouraged schools to fall into the habit of making arbitrary decisions. Among the 200 Hanyangians who have participated in the survey, 62 percent of them stated that the biggest problem with the tuition fee system is that students get notified about the increase after it goes into effect. In the case of HYU, the school administration claimed five percent of increase in the second TFDC and of 2.9 percent increase in the third TFDC, not publicizing the facts to the whole student. "TFDC is an organization the school and students debate over whether they should increase the tuition fee. The school should not first decide that they must increase the tuition fee and debate about the increase," said Park. Also, Park warned that the aforementioned behavior made by the school can be very intentional. "There are schools that tell the nonsensical rate of increase in the first place. Then, when students protest about it, the school administrations decrease it to the rate that they wanted. They do this act because some students will think that the school accommodated the students?ideas and decreased the increase rate. By this way, some schools justify their acts," said Park.
Then, is not there a policy that tells students about the raise beforehand? Of course, there is a policy called the Tuition Fee Preliminary Announcement (TFPA) which acts as a countermeasure against this. TFPA is a system which gives notice beforehand on how much tuition fees will cost so will-be Freshmen can prepare in advance. For example, the school will tell students that it will raise the tuition fee by 16 percent for four years. Then the school cannot increase the tuition fee by four percent per year as far as the inflation occurs.
However, there are only eight universities which practice this policy. Though the government is trying to get more universities to adopt this system, not many are biting. "This is because the government regards liberization of schools as important. It should know that too much is bad as too little," said Ahn.
In addition, according to the book, Country with Tuition Fee Madness, schools try to take advantage of Freshmen. That is, Freshmen have a shortcoming that even if they do not like the raise in tuition fees, they can do nothing about it. It is because if they refuse to pay it, they will not be admitted to the universities. This disadvantage makes it easy for the schools to abuse the TFPA. "In 2001, after Daegu National University of Education (DNUE) introduced the TFPA, it became a method of the schools to justify their high tuition fee. DNUE fixed the tuition fee to a huge rate for pre-Freshmen. Knowing that they will not be admitted to schools when refusing the offer, they admitted the policy. Afterwards, Freshmen have to pay 2.5 million won which was 810 thousand won more than before," said Ahn.
Swollen Estimate: Schools' Greed
It is common, expected reality, for any institute to file for a larger budget than it actually needs and universities are no exceptions. An excessive budget allows a certain amount of room to wiggle in case of future emergencies. For universities, the easiest way to expand their savings is to increase the tuition fee.
Experts criticize that there is no use for universities to have such large amount of reserve deposits. "Above all, in my opinion, universities should be non-profit organizations. They are receiving aids from the government. Korean universities have too much money to see it as an emergency fund," said Kim Dong-yoon an administrator of Korean Baptist Youth Association. Information from Korean Council for University Education shows that when comparing the average amount of stored money between 2007 to 2009, the amount is higher by 51 percent than before. In 2011, reserved deposits for private universities are expected to excess 105 billion won.
What is more is that these reserved funds are not always necessarily used to improve school management. There have even been cases where these funds were used in unethically. In 2009, Ajou University was scolded for 650 million won in appraisal losses from their reserves when they blew it all on stocks. According to the Joongang Daily, Sungshin Women's University and Yonsei University were caught investing in illegal foreign funds.
According to an investigation by KSA, 11 universities lost more than 1,240 billion won in appraisal losses in 2009. "I cannot believe schools waste reserve money like that. That was money forged from students?hardship. Schools have a lot to answer for," said Lee Woong-jae, an Ajou University Junior in the Department of Engineering.
TFDC: Policy with Faults
TFDC is a policy that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology came up with. In Section 11 of the Higher Education Act, it states that every university should establish a TFDC for the mediation of tuition fee estimates. Currently, there are 136 universities that hold the policy.
The foremost problem is that schools have too much power regulating the TFDCs which intrudes on the original purpose of the policy. 69 percent of Hanyangians stated that the school has too much power in controlling TFDC. The Higher Education Act states that there must be seven or more board members composed of professors, students, experts who are related to the policy, and alumni and parents. Also, each component shall not exceed one half of the board; parents or alumni cannot occupy one seventh of the board.
However, on Act Seven, the matter of the composing and managing of board members shall be decided by school regulations, does not give specific details regarding the members of TFDCs and gave the power to compose TFDCs to schools. In other words, schools can appoint their TFDC board members without needs for voting or debating.
Also, TFDCs have comparatively lesser power than schools when it comes to appropriating the following year's budget. As budget plans directly affect tuition fees, it is important for the yearly budgets to be reasonable. However, according to current legislatures, TFDCs only have the power to discuss the yearly budget, and not to decide on it. The actual power to authorize budgets is in the hands of university presidents; investigating and deciding the budget depend by members of board of directors. Until now, students were able to participate in budget decisions through the GSA. Accordingly there is not enough room for TFDCs to participate in budget decisions. This becomes the problem because after the school administrations decide their exaggerated budget, the tuition fees, which are directly influenced by the budgets have to be exaggerated as well. Thus, there is no meaning of the TFDCs.
Lastly, the TFDC Act has little force. There are no strong policies that can force universities to adhere to the TFDC Act. Among the 241 private universities in Korea, there are only 136 universities that have TFDCs. The number of schools that actually practice the policy is 32. Schools that do not follow suits however, are not punished. "During the four conferences, we had tried hard to negotiate with the school about the rise in tuition fees. However, the school seemed to take no notice of TFDC and unilaterally made their decision to confirm the rise. This means that the school has thought of TFDC as a formality from the beginning. Now I wonder whether TFDC is on the right track," said Jung Hyun-ho, the president of Terminator, current the GSA of HYU.
More Communication in Need
The core problem the students mentioned was that the school should communicate more with students. More privileges should be given to the students to be runned democratically.
First of all, private university law should be amended in order for transparent and responsible management. Stressing the public obligation of the education foundation and expanding the component of the school committee is one of the keys to solve the school? inconsistent determination.
As in the case of Finland, France, and Singapore, the government gives penalty to schools that infringe on students?rights. If the school gets four penalties, support for the school will diminish. "SEC should be run more . Like foreign countries, such as England, France, and Switzerland the committee should have 40 percent of students, parents and alumni as the board members," said Kim Na-re, an employee of Korea Higher Education Research Institute.
Furthermore, an independent TFDC is also necessary. The Act of TFDC, which gives the power to decide, should be modified. It shall not be the school regulation that governs the TFDC but enforcement regulations made by the government. Not only this, veto power must be given to some percentage of students, parents and alumni. Thus, the school will be hindered from making decisions that would only benefit them. Lastly, it is required for the school to be clearly open to public. For instance, the school should unreveal data that is important in considering or deciding the tuition fees. If the school refuses, there must be strong sanctions by the government.
Moreover, universities should diversify the income earning to diverse fields. Currently, average tuition fee dependence of Korean universities is 64.8 percent. That is, if universities think their finance is weak, it is evident that they will increase the tuition fees. Many experts claim that dependence can be lowered when the government aids the schools. Universities in Europe are provided with lots of money by the government. Also the Japanese government aids schools by providing them current expense. Developing countries regard high education as mandatorily responsible by the government. As mentioning the aforementioned cases, Jung stressed, "HYU ranked the seventh in dependence in tuition fees. There must be a change that would lower the dependence."
Looks Fruitful, but Rotten Inside
For the schools to reform, it is necessary for the government to take appropriate measures. However, the current government is only fancy outside. In 2008, President Lee Myung-bak promised to carry out policies that would benefit the middle-class. To students who were having a hard time paying their tuition fees, he had them assured with Half-Priced Tuition Fees and low interest Income Contingent Loan (ICL).
Half-Priced Tuition Fees were one of the switched-off policies made by the Grand National Party (GNP) in 2006. After making the promise, the GNP was supported by university students who were burdened with tuition fees. "Every hearing, civil organizations and nongovernment parties criticized the GNP for their irresponsibility. Nevertheless the GNP copes with taciturnity," said Kim.
The GNP's main reason for not employing Half-Priced Tuition Fees was because the government feels too burdened to pay for all the students' tuition fees. The GNP insisted that the government would need more than seven trillion won a year to keep up with Half Priced Tuition Fees. Then, it would be hard for the government to assist companies to make more jobs. Also, the government argued that if they lean towards aiding higher education, it would not be fair.
However, what the expert said was different. ?he problem with Half Price Tuition Fee does not lie in the GNP? will. If the government and National Assembly have the will and legislate higher education financial grant estimate law and invest six percent of internal tax to universities, Half Price Tuition Fee will work.
Another problem with the government is too expensive ICL. ICL is a policy that helps students pay their tuition fee. Students would use ICL to borrow money from the government by a reasonable interest rate. Before GNP took regime, President Lee promised that he would lower the interest rate so students do not have to worry about the high interest after graduating.
Until now, however, the interest rate only fell by 0.4 percent and is currently 4.9 percent which makes it suspicious whether ICL will lift the burden. According to the book Country with Tuition Fee Madness, if a kid goes to university and gets ICL, he or she would have to pay back 17 million won for 32 years. According to the statistics made by People' Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, students who use the ICL increased by 18 thousand to 23 thousand for six years. Also, ICL usage decreased among students who have low income by 29.3 percent. ? tried to loan money from ICL. However, my parents said that ICL have high interest rate so it is not good to loan from them. So I gave up,?said Lee Myung-hwa, a Sophomore at the School of Business.
Another reason why ICL cannot help students with the tuition fee problem is because not everyone can get ICL. To get loans from ICL, a student would have to rank six or better from Korea Scholastic Aptitude Test, GPA of 3.0, be lower than the age of 35, have to earn less than 3,000 thousand won a month, and have to be an undergraduates (no post graduates). Almost nearly 50 percent of university students cannot even apply for ICL. To make it worse, students who get student loans from ICL must maintain a high GPA. "ICL is not even a scholarship. It is very absurd that there are almost 50 percent of students who are not qualified for ICL. If we look at France and Norway, 87 percent of students are qualified to get ICL," said Park.
To Build Government Dependant Schools
Whether government shows policy that will make school government-dependent, will be the key to end the long crisis. Two years have passed since President Lee has taken office, still there is no sign of his promises becoming a reality. Rather, the government is trying to reduce the budget to support students. On December 8, the Lee Administration announced its citizen welfare budget. It abolished the promised low interest ICL policy and reduced university labor scholarships by 1.8 billion won. As if that was not enough, the Korea Students and Foundation budget was cut by another 1.3 billion won. "In this situation, policies that only have appearances that seem plausible, do not help the tuition fee crisis to end. The government is only bringing the tuition fight to a prolonged war," said Ahn.
Then what should be changed? The government should make long-term plans to assist high education in order to aid 50 percent of university finance. Then, like it or not, the government can deeply interfere with the school? fixing the tuition fee. Not only this, government will also have power to the school and can prohibit injustice and irrationalities to protecting students?wealth. Government can take over school's finance in various ways.
The most efficient way is to keep their promise of Half Price Tuition Fee. Experts pointed out that Europeans got free higher education since their GDP was about 5,000 to 10,000 dollars. However, because European socialism styled wealth nation is very different from Korea in that citizens in Europe pays 58 percent of their wages in tax. Still, experts believe that Half Price Tuition Fee can be accomplished. Already, there are lots of civic unions and political parties that endeavor to make specific details of Half Price Tuition Fee.
To carry out this policy, the government would need about four billion won. It can be accomplished by assembling scattered educational finance which is about one billion won, and can spare fee from government promotion fee and curtail budget regarding annual expenditures will be about three billion won which makes it enough for the government to hold this policy. Lee Jung-hei of Democratic Labor Party stated that if the current government restore tax reduction rate of riches to a normal state and decrease the budget that concentrates in four river revamping project, Half Price Tuition Fee can into practice at this moment.
After the practice of Half Price Tuition Fee, interest rate of ICL should be amended. The interest rate must be lowered less than three percent. It is estimated that 42 percent of students will be able to get a loan after the decrease of interest. Also, the qualification should be lifted and the policy should be amended so students can pay back the loan after they get a job. "When we compare ICL to foreign policies, we can know that the interest rate is too expensive. Average interest rate of ICL in Europe is 2.8 percent. The USA which is infamous for high tuition fee is only 3.5 percent too. The government should do something about Korea? interest rate," said Kim.
Students, Passive than Active in the Crisis of Tuition Fee
For school and the government to act in their fullness, students should act out. They have the responsibility to awaken these two main bodies. The reality, however, is not good as people want it to be.
"I want the GSA to be able to communicate with students. Then, every time the school tries to make policies that would put students at a disadvantage, we can communicate and work together to prevent their actions," said Jung. His will, however, could not be achieved easily.
According to 2009 Joongang Ilbo survey, 59 percent of 4632 students in ten schools in Seoul, are ignorant of the GSA activities such as fighting for increase in tuition fee compared to the 80s and 90s. The main cause of this is mostly due to the structural problem which led students to lose sense of self-personality.
The statistics made by Chosun Ilbo show that only 18 percent of students in Korea earn their own money for the tuition fee. "Not many Korean students paying their tuition fee can result in their passive behavior towards increase in tuition fee," said Park. In western countries, many students learn how to live independently by earning their own tuition fee. Thus, they are sensitive how schools increase and decrease the tuition fee. For example, in November 2009, thousand students in 50 universities in Germany made a protest for days because the universities made an announcement that they will increase the tuition fee about 800 thousand won. "It is hard to integrate Korean students because Korean students who gain support by the parents do not know why they have to unite and struggle for the decrease or freeze of the tuition fee," Park stressed.
Not only can this, but can the fact that large enterprises pay the tuition fee of employee's children be another reason of the lack of interest. "There were not many students whose parents went to large enterprises in the university I went before succeeding special admission to HYU. There were more protests back then. However, in HYU, with many students whose parents go to large enterprises, in my opinion, are not that interested in our activity,"said Jung.
Moreover, in Korea, way people recognize others with jobs way more than people who are unemployed are different. This is why students cannot participate much on tuition fights while they are busy studying towards the better job. 78 percent of Hanyangians stated that they would rather study for getting more licenses or high GPA than to spend time in quarreling with the school for lower tuition fee. "Long time ago, when I was the president, many students participated in the protest. There were students with pickets everywhere, ready to fight for their rights. Nowadays, however, with students stressed up studying for better GPAs and licenses, it is a pity that not many students participate in protests," said Kwon Mi-sun the sixth student president of College of Humanity in Inha University.
Dispersed Soft-power, Not Enough to Fight the War
Moreover, the absence of practical on-line social networks between students in universities, otherwise known as soft power, a compound word combining "Software" and "Power" in Korea is another contributing factor to a lessening interest in fighting for tuition fees. The traditional off-line methods of tacking posters on walls, improvising impromptu speeches in classrooms, and stump speaking are, of course, still employed to some degree, but it is not enough to blanket the entire student body of a university. the GSAs all over the country have conducted numerous projects having trial-and-error to overcome this drawback.
Thus, HYU once made its trial to launch the on-line community that would unify the soft-power. Last year, the GSA launched on-line community, Humanity. However, as an effort to coalesce the general student population only a grand total of 1000 students actually signed up. "The essential cause for its failure was that students were not aware of the reason why they needed to log on to the website to gain information about different conferences with the school. Therefore, only students that were interested in the information participated," said Kim.
Students Full of Ownership
The best way to stimulate students to become active in participating for their rights is to use online communication wisely. There is a free board in each universities that enables student to communicate with each other. However, only 47 percent of students are using free board according to NewsInk.
The solution is to make a integrated social network. "In HYU, there are many soft powers. Jagebe, Hubiz, Hanyang Life, HP which individually has more than 400 Hanyangians participating is some of them. Notwithstanding, there should be a site that integrates all these soft power," said Jung. To make the community, there should be aid from the school. Schools should support the student council to make a website and no doubt, lots of promotion fee.
Also, mesmerizing students to participate in activities that protect their right can be done by giving lots of benefits. More scholarships for students participating in communication with schools and the students are necessary. Universities in Europe have lots of student organizations. Not only schools give benefits to the student organization but also venture companies do. "Students' lack of ownership can be elevated depending how the school benefit students. Also, I believe government and companies should aid students," stated Kim. With students who are pushing on to study for better GPA and licenses, he added, "I know that this phenomenon is unavoidable. In the global society, companies require their applicants to have various talents. If I was the company interviewee, however, I would pick students with ownership, students who know how to protect their rights. This does not mean that students should not invest time in getting licenses. Yet, I wish for students to gain more ownership."
Better World for the Better Future
"Actual expenditure of tuition fee in Korea ranked four out of 32 OECD countries. This is mainly contributed to government? aid of three fourth tuition fees. However, Korean students?wealth was not as good long time ago. Carrying out the Half Price Tuition Fee was a good head start for Korea to make a stepping stone towards to become a Big Power of student wealth. Many countries are now envying Korea and trying to learn their strategy." It is a quote from a reporter in 2020, 342th Hanyang Journal [Cover Story].
This article is not impossible. It lies in the hands of activeness of students. As mentioned above, government and the school should cooperate to make a better wealth for students. For this, students should act out and should strive hard for better school and their wealth. "Nowadays, it seemed that the political parties are striving hard to make Half Price Tuition Fee work. Still, we, the citizens, have to supervise and criticize whether the parties are aiming for populism. Depending on the students' participation, the wealthy student nation is possible," said Ahn. He also added, "The meaning of participation is not made only by picketing or demonstrations. There are also ways to act out by having communication with the two bodies." One-million-won tuition fee is no extraordinary phrase in Korea these days. News about students committing suicide, or parents suffering from high tuition fee are now too common for us to think as, "How in the world can this happen?" Kim said, "The war has gone too long. It is time for students to act to work out a way to find a solution."