A university’s noble austerity

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A university’s noble austerity

The state alone cannot reverse rapid rises in university tuition fees. Universities must do their part by saving and cutting costs to ease the financial burden on students.

Suwon University provides a good example for how the Ivory Tower can deal with costs effectively.

Appearing on a television program on Sunday, Education Minister Lee Joo-ho praised the university for its exemplary role in saving costs and giving more support to students. For the last three years, Suwon University has kept tuition fees unchanged.

It used 80 percent of its college reserves from last year - worth 25 billion won - to widen student scholarship programs.

All faculty members economized to help students get a better education for less money.

For example, they surrendered the long-standing one-year sabbatical as a part of austerity measures. Professors customarily are given a year off every six years to spend time at institutions at home or abroad for their research. But the school halved the period to six months to save money.

No doubt the sabbatical year is a necessary measure to help professors keep up with academic currents, but many waste their time vacationing due to university authorities’ lax supervision over their research.

The remarkable initiatives by Suwon University can breathe fresh air into the culture of complacency in the academic society.

The university also employs half the numbers of teaching staff compared with other universities. Instead, it runs operations based on task forces and specialized teams to boost efficiency while lowering labor costs. All the money saved from such efforts has gone back to students in the form of scholarship benefits.

Suwon University’s innovative moves naturally cause embarrassment to other universities that have accumulated as much as 800 billion won in bank accounts and still go on raising tuitions. Suwon University President Lee In-soo said, “It is a university’s duty to help students pursue learning without financial concerns.”

In Korea, universities earn most of their revenue from student tuitions. It should be spent on students. The Korean Council for University Education, a body of university presidents, decided to seek a common way to rationalize their massive cash holdings.

We hope that Suwon University’s exemplary case will further spread in the university community.
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