[EDITORIALS]Beneficial college reforms

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[EDITORIALS]Beneficial college reforms

Reforms are taking place rapidly in universities and colleges ever since the appointment of economics-savvy Education Minister Kim Jin-pyo. Last week, the Education Ministry reported to the Blue House a plan to restructure colleges nationwide by decreasing the number of state-run colleges and allowing a tax credit to private businesses for the entire amount of donations to private universities.
It is a good thing that the government decided to cut the number of state colleges from 50 to 35 by 2007. With more than 350 colleges nationwide, including technical and industrial colleges, provincial schools are having a difficult time attracting new students. How can students become competitive studying at such schools? Yet the schools are stalling restructuring. Now, reforms look set to take place quickly because the Education Ministry has promised to give as much as 20 billion won ($19.7 million) in financial aid to colleges that undertake restructuring.
Although reforming the college education system is an urgent task, it is not something that the government should enforce unilaterally, which would only have negative side effects. This present reform measure, however, is using market principles. It is especially remarkable that the ministry said it would categorize the full amount of donations from firms to colleges as business expenses.
This would mean that both businesses and schools would profit from such donations and thus improve the overall difficult financial situation of many private schools. The ministry’s recent decision to allow schools to draw private capital in building facilities such as dormitories, sports facilities and laboratories was also a wise policy choice.
We ask the government to apply market principles more boldly in its college education policies. Until now, the Education Ministry and bureaucrats have hindered the growth of schools by emphasizing the “uniqueness” of education too much.
College reforms are directly linked to national competitiveness. That is why the focus should be on enhancing competitiveness. Getting rid of unnecessary “fat” through restructuring is essential. But such measures cannot work without voluntary participation. The government should find various means to systemically and financially support the schools to implement these restructuring measures on their own while minimizing negative side effects.

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