Students crushed by extra fees at private schools

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Students crushed by extra fees at private schools

Students in lower-income families are giving up on attending autonomous private high schools because of the burden of extra school fees, even though the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology had adopted a policy of providing these students with basic school costs, including tuition and school management fees.

According to JoongAng Ilbo, the number of students who left the autonomous schools last semester due to financial difficulties reached 33 out of 255 students in 20 schools in the country. Seventeen of those 33 were entitled to the subsidy of the government.

Although the schools promised to grant basic fees, they are imposing extra fees ? such as for dormitories, overseas field trips, school bus fees and special lectures - which reached as much as 2.6 million won ($2,232) per semester.

Autonomous private high schools were started in 2009 when the Education Ministry decided to improve the quality of education in selected high schools by giving them decision-making autonomy.

The selected 20 self-regulated schools can choose students using their own admission standards and design a student’s studies suited to his or her ability. They can impose admission fees and tuition fees on students three times higher than ordinary schools because the government does not provide financial aid.

In response of criticism that called these “noble schools,” places only for students of rich families, the Education Ministry made it mandatory for the schools to fill 20 percent of their enrollment with students from lower-income families.

The ministry also required schools to use their own funds to finance tuition, school management fees and meals for the these students.

“We are so disappointed in the autonomous private high schools, which do not give us any further support,” said the mother of a 16-year-girl who attends one of the schools. The girl’s sister temporarily left her university to work so that her sibling could stay at the school.

A 16-year-boy could not shoulder the burden of his extra payment of 2.2 million won per semester, and finally left the school. He couldn’t afford his school’s dormitory and lunch fees, according to JoongAng Ilbo.

An official at the school, however, blamed his leaving on other causes. “I think he had some difficulty in getting accustomed to school life because of the social gap with his classmates,” the official said.

According to one statistic, the average extra fees that students in lower classes had to pay was 1.4 million won, which is the same amount as the average living costs for the whole family.

Experts attributed the students leaving the schools to policy makers requiring the schools to pay for poor students, without taking into consideration their budgets.

“The government needs to give additional scholarships for underprivileged students to prevent them from moving to ordinary schools,” said Jeong Su-hyeon, a professor at Seoul National University of Education.

By Kang Kap-saeng, Park Yu-mi []
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