[EDITORIALS]No alms for local collegesPresidents of provincial two- and four-year colleges launched an association Friday and asked the government for 3 percent of domestic taxes ― this year 2.4 trillion won ($1.9 billion). As a first resort, they badger the government for money like spoiled children. We are aware of the financial constraints on provincial universities and colleges. But the laziness of begging for money without making efforts of their own to restructure well illustrates their past incompetence.
It is widely agreed that radical measures are needed to revive local universities. This year, four-year universities had 35,000 more vacancies than freshmen; two-year colleges fell 50,000 students short. About 20 colleges could not fill even half of the available seats. Even after admission, large numbers of students in provincial colleges transfer to universities in the Seoul area, driving some local universities to the brink of ruin. At private colleges, which are more dependent on tuition funds, the lack of financial sources leads to inadequate education, which results in student flight and reduced job chances for graduates.
Reviving local colleges is necessary, if only to achieve balanced provincial development. We must nurture provincial universities to prevent local talent from draining to other areas and to grow competitiveness in science and technology at local centers. But the proposal of the local college presidents that their institutions be sustained with taxpayer money is like pouring water into a pond with an open drain. The government should help only if colleges themselves work to shore up their competitiveness, creating specialties, consolidating majors or merging campuses. Schools that lose the survival battle must close.
Universities in Korea so far have concentrated on growing like department stores, ever bigger. Even when colleges try to restructure they face strong resistance from professors, alumni and students. In Japan, of the 99 state-run universities, 35 are discussing consolidation. China has reduced its higher-education institutes from 556 to 232 in just eight years. That is the road that we also must take. Before providing aid, the government must encourage local colleges to restructure.