On January 25, 2019, the Tuition fee Adjustment Committee (TAC) of Hanyang University decided to increase the tuition fee for foreign students by 5%. Hanyang University (HYU) announced that the 5% increase in tuition will be spent on infrastructure, more employees at the Office of International Affairs (OIA), Korean language classes, and other support for foreign students living in and finding jobs in Korea. However, the TAC has been enacting 5% increase in tuition for these students every year since 2017, citing reasons that are unsatisfactory to the students. Also, unlike the cap on Korean students’ tuition fees, there is no limitation on tuition fee increases for foreign students. Hence, the representative of foreign students from China questioned whether HYU is fairly raising foreign students’ tuition fees.
Victor from China, a senior in the Department of Mechanical Engineering claims, “I have never been told where my money is being spent. When I asked the employees at the OIA about why I had to pay around 230,000 won more, they only told me it was being used to enhance the quality of Korean language education and the infrastructure for foreigners, such as the global lounge and the kitchen in the dormitory. But I personally don’t agree with this because most foreign students at HYU are able to speak Korean quite well; otherwise, they wouldn’t have been admitted here. Also, as for the infrastructure improvements, some senior students won’t be able to use the new infrastructure and will graduate as they are still being built. The OIA is really kind and helped me with a lot of things in terms of making a new bank account and signing up for health care insurance. Yet, they didn’t really give us a clear explanations as to how they are going to use our money, nor did they ask for our opinions when they began planning these things for us. I believe clear notices are needed somewhere like on social media when they use the tuition fees so that foreign students don’t feel so worried. For example, the tuition fee I had to pay was 4,630,000 won in 2017, 4,861,000 won in 2018, and now it has gone up to 5,104,000 won in 2019.” The representative of foreign students from China on Seoul Campus had several meetings with the OIA, but the office gave insufficient explanations to only some Chinese students, and not to those from other countries. They also excluded foreign students on ERICA Campus. In addition, surveys asking for foreign students’ ideas in terms of improving living qualities weren't distributed, which could have asked for their preferences regarding a new kitchen, new studying place, or new dormitory.
In January 2010, the law of Higher Education Act regarding the TAC was revised : stating that students should be able to participate as senators in TAC meetings. As a result, students were able to participate in TAC meetings and negotiate the amount they should pay on behalf of other students. Seoul Campus, ERICA Campus, and the Graduate School of Hanyang University each sent two representatives, so a total of six students participated in the TAC meeting and have been a part of the discussion about the agenda for foreign students since 2017. They had to discuss that because of the Ministry of Education's decision to exclude foreign students in the law on tuition capping, which means that all universities have a limit on tuition price increasing except for those of foreign students. For instance, in 2019, Yonsei University increased tuition by 44% for some major, and costs of 4.78 million won rose to 6.88 million won. Other examples include Kyunghee University’s increase of 8.8%, Sungkyunkwan University’s increase of 5%, and Korea University’s increase of 4%. The foreign student representative from Kyunghee University said, “The university told me that if the law regarding admission fees is abolished in 2022, the cost of the damages will be 4 billion won. So, they are trying to put the burden on foreigners by increasing the cost of our tuition.” However, the reasons for why the tuition was increased at HYU turned out to be slightly different from those of other universities. Yun Ji- seok, one of the TAC members acting as a student senator in 2019, explained that “as a representative of the student body, I also disagreed with the HYU senators’ agenda of increasing tuition by 5% for foreign students. However, they stated several reasons for why it was necessary. Firstly, it was because of the taxes and inflation rate. Secondly, other countries like China and America usually charge up to five or six times the price of what their domestic students has to pay. Additionally, the tuition fee is still very low compared to other universities in Korea. Lastly, 5% increase will be used in infrastructure.” Looking back on previous questions student senators have asked HYU about the agenda, in 2017, they asked for a decrease of 3.6% in tuition costs, an increase of less than 1.8% in 2018, and a retraction of the 5% increase proposed in 2019. In addition, they also questioned whether the admission of foreign students is permitted regardless of qualifications in order to get more supporting funds from the Ministry of Education. Yet, it is still unknown if HYU has allowed the practice to take place.
Chung Hyun-chul, Vice President of the Office of Planning, explained that “the school usually decides the rate of tuition fees and whether to increase or decrease them by comparing the total amount of income versus operational costs. Also, it’s because of the regulation of Korean education. If HYU increases the tuition fee of domestic students, it won’t be eligible to receive any supporting funds for HYU, which sources are from taxes. Since foreign students don’t pay taxes, they can’t take the money. Despite the regulation, HYU could have increased the tuition fee if HYU wanted to, but since the amount of supporting funds is higher than HYU would get from increasing Korean students’ tuition fees, the HYU can’t really increase the domestic tuition fees, in order to give more scholarships to Korean students. And we also compared our finances with those of several other universities in America, Australia, and China by the students’ demand. So, we had to decide to consider it and increase the rate of foreign students’ tuition. However, we still only receive 1 billion won from them. Compared to the 31 billion won we spend for them, As the price for the dormitory for foreign students, the tuition price is very small. But we were able to afford to charge so little because of the supporting funds we receive from the government and we always try to do lots of business in order to offer our students as many scholarships as possible. The average scholarship we give to each student is around 3.3 million won, and the rate of tuition fee restoration is 224%, meaning that students get twice as much in value compared to what they pay in tuition fees. For example, we usually spend a substantial amount on books and machines. Plus, for the foreign students, money is spent on the global information center, dormitory, job fairs, and translating the HELP system into Chinese and English, among other services.”
Things That We Should See Next Year
In conclusion, the representatives of foreign students from Seoul Campus and ERICA Campus must be able to participate in the TAC meeting next year in order to communicate well with one another, and to see if tuition is being used properly. Additionally, HYU must consider sharing their budget files by uploading them onto HYU’s official website for complete transparency, so students won’t have any further concerns.