Gov’t increases pressure to keep tuition freeze

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Gov’t increases pressure to keep tuition freeze

The government has decided to step up its efforts to keep universities from raising tuition, stirring discontent among universities.

“We need the cooperation of universities because of the weight it carries in consumer prices,” said Minister of Education, Science and Technology Lee Ju-ho at a morning briefing in Seoul on Friday.

The event was attended by presidents of 22 universities as well as senior officials of the Korean Council for University Education, including Lee Ki-su, head of the council and president of Korea University.

“I realize that many universities have had difficulties regarding tuition during the past two years, but we ask that you refrain from raising costs this year,” the minister said.

The Education Ministry will likely offer support to universities that take part in the government’s plans to stabilize university fees.

Officials of some schools, however, said they could no longer afford to freeze tuition.

“Big or small, state-owned or private, metropolitan or provincial - the financial status of all these schools are different,” complained one university president who asked not to be named, stating that some schools “did not have a choice.”

While the minister was making his appeal, his words were met with grim faces.

“As soon [as Lee] talked about freezing tuition, the room went cold,” observed one president of a private university.

Another complained, “National universities are run by taxes; the decision for private universities should entirely be up to the schools.”

The government previously asked schools to freeze education fees for the coming school year and 115 four-year universities - including Seoul National University, Chonbuk National University, Chungnam National University and Hansei University - have announced they will not raise tuition this year.

There are 200 four-year colleges in Korea.

Schools that choose to raise costs will have be restricted to an increase of 5.1 percent starting this year, in a new policy implemented by the Education Ministry last September.

“There is an understanding among schools that if there are increases, they should be done within a 3 percent limit,” said Lee of Korea University.

Minister Lee also urged universities to simplify their selection processes for freshmen, pointing out that many students and their parents have found the current entrance procedures to be too complicated and too grueling.

By Christine Kim []
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