[EDITORIALS]Saving Korea’s colleges

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[EDITORIALS]Saving Korea’s colleges

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development plans to propose a change in the law that would allow mergers or buyouts of universities. That is a step in the right direction.
In order to restructure our college education system, and especially to make private universities in the provinces competitive, some of them must be merged or overlapping departments must be closed down.
Many private schools in the provinces suffer from a dearth of students and are about to collapse. Last year, those schools found themselves with a 14-percent surplus of seats on average, and the situation did not improve much this year. One junior college that found itself with an especially large shortfall in applicants recommended that half its faculty retire or take leaves of absence.
Some professors have created scholarship funds out of their own pockets and paid 1 million won ($860) each to incoming freshmen. Other schools went on aggressive recruiting campaigns, trying to lure businessmen, housewives and civil servants back to school. Despite their efforts, many students at provincial four-year schools move to universities in Seoul after their first or second year at the outlying schools.
If private universities in the provinces are left to wither like this, the problem will spread to all other universities as well, and will block our national goal of developing our human resources. Can such schools offer a good education? Can their graduates find good jobs? Universities that exist to create jobs for professors or schools that are set up to make money for their founders should disappear. Such a law to promote mergers and closures should be enacted before midyear.
The law that prohibits the disposal of corporate assets invested in private universities must be changed. If investors in such schools could regain part of their capital, as is allowed for investors in primary and secondary schools, closures would be easier. It is also worth considering to allow businesses to buy universities to educate people for their companies.
The most important point is to protect current students at such universities. The major obstacles to mergers and acquisitions are faculty members, alumni and residents of the neighborhoods near the schools.
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