Audit board plans major probe into college tuition

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Audit board plans major probe into college tuition

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College students and citizens stage a candlelight vigil last night at Cheonggye Plaza in central Seoul to demand lower tuitions. [YONHAP]


A major probe into public and private universities’ finances and the appropriateness of their tuition levels was announced by the Board of Audit and Inspection yesterday, amid growing demands for cheaper tuitions.

The audit will be the largest ever in the history of the BAI. More than one-third of the board’s manpower, or 200 officials, will participate in the audit. A 20-member task force will be created next week to prepare for the investigation. A preliminary probe will take place next month and the main audit will begin in August, the board said.

“Since the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has the actual oversight of private schools, we will cooperate with the ministry on this probe. Civilian experts will also be invited,” said Jeong Chang-yeong, the BAI secretary general.

The audit was apparently prompted by ongoing concerns that Korea’s college tuition is too high. Lowering the tuition burden on the working class was recently promoted as the top priority of the ruling Grand National Party, and daily street demonstrations by students to pressure the schools and government are ongoing in downtown Seoul.

According to the BAI, the probe will focus on uncovering unlawful spending by universities, with more than half of their funds financed by tuition fees. Investigators will conduct an audit to determine if universities’ tuition levels were set appropriately and whether the universities have maintained transparent accounting.

The appropriateness of government subsidies and the fairness of research and development funding will also be reviewed.

The audit board will first review the financial statements of the country’s 200 national, provincial and private universities. The universities that will be audited further will be decided based on the preliminary review.

While schools with financial irregularities will be punished harshly, universities with excellent audit outcomes will receive incentives, Jeong said. “The audit reports will be provided to the government and the National Assembly so that the results can be used in the process of a tuition cut plan and a restructuring of incompetent schools.”

After Hwang Woo-yea, the newly elected reformist floor leader of the Grand National Party, pledged last month that the ruling party’s priority would be tuition cuts, public protests demanding lower tuitions have grown by the day. Hundreds of students have rallied in central Seoul to pressure the Lee Myung-bak administration to take action on the issue.

As the government and the ruling party struggle to tackle the complex issue, a plan to allow universities to offer admission in return for donations was ruled out by the GNP’s Hwang, with Hwang promising to come up with a measure this month.

“I want to make clear that the GNP has no plan to allow admission by donation,” Hwang said yesterday at a caucus meeting. He also said the GNP will consult with the government and opposition parties with a goal of ending the tuition debate before the end of this month. “I will try to reflect the plan in next year’s budget,” he said.

While the government has shown concern over financing the tuition cut with tax revenue, some politicians and universities have said admission by donation could be a way to lower tuition burdens on most students. Both Hwang and government officials were reluctant to introduce the program, however.

A senior Blue House official said allowing universities to admit the children of large donors would go against public sentiment. He said many small private universities outside Seoul also were against the idea, because it would create a price tag for each university and each major.

A major protest was planned for yesterday near Cheonggye Stream in central Seoul. Marking the June 10 democratization movement, students, civic groups and liberal political parties scheduled a candlelight vigil to begin at 7 p.m.

The government, however, labeled it as an unauthorized rally and warned that police would stop the protesters.

While the police estimated that about 2,000 would gather, protest organizers said about 10,000 would show up. The largest tuition protest was attended by about 1,000 people last Saturday.

Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said yesterday that expressing various opinions and having a discussion on the tuition issue are desirable, but group action by the students would not help resolve the problem.

“This is not a simple matter of lessoning the burden on the working class,” Kim said. “It is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive solution involving the government’s finances, restructuring uncompetitive schools and lowering the unreasonably high admission rate.”

The Blue House is carefully watching how the situation evolves, worrying that the tuition rally could grow into a massive antigovernment protest.

The Lee administration has already faced candlelight vigils twice before that turned into fierce street demonstrations against the government.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

감사원 “등록금 원가 따져보겠다”

200개 대학 전면 감사 착수 … 감사요원 600명 중 200명 사상 최다 인력 투입
“최대한 신속히 감사 결과 공개
부실대학 구조조정에도 반영”

감사원이 10일 대학의 등록금 산정 기준이 올바른지를 따져보기 위해 전국 200여 개 4년제 국·공·사립 대학(사이버대학 제외)을 대상으로 전면 감사에 착수하겠다고 밝혔다.

정창영 감사원 사무총장은 이날 기자간담회를 자청해 “최근 ‘반값 등록금’ 논란으로 대학 재정 운용에 대한 관심이 높아지고 있지만, 적정 등록금 산정을 위한 기초 실태조차 파악되지 않고 있다”며 "투명하게 등록금 구조를 들여다볼 것”이라고 말했다. 사실상 대학 등록금의 ‘원가’를 공개하겠다고 나선 것이다.

대학 등록금에 대한 감사는 1963년 감사원 개원 이후 처음이다. 또한 이번 감사는 93년 이회창 감사원장 당시 율곡비리 감사 이후 처음으로 감사원 국·단 단위가 아닌 전 조직이 동원되는 원(院) 단위 감사로 진행된다. 감사원은 다음 달 태스크포스(TF)를 출범해 예비감사를 벌인 뒤 8월부터 본감사에 착수할 방침인데, 본감사에는 감사원 전체 인력의 3분의 1 이상인 200여 명의 감사관이 투입된다. 이는 “감사원 출범 이후 최대 규모”라고 손창동 감사원 공보관이 전했다. 다음은 정창영 총장과의 문답.

- 이번 감사의 초점은.

“과연 등록금 산정이 적정한가를 보는 것이다. 등록금 등 수입이 있으면 지출이 있을 것이다. 회계관리가 적정한지와 공사와 구매 등까지 광범위하게 볼 것이다.”

- 감사원 감사로 등록금이 인하될 가능성이 있나.

“낭비된 예산만큼은 등록금이 싸지지 않겠나.”

- 일종의 ‘등록금 원가 공개’인데 법적 충돌은 없나.

“등록금은 대학이 자율적으로 결정하는 사항이지만 정부 보조금도 있으니 투명하게 보자는 것이다. 실제로 낭비가 있는지, 없는지. 구매와 공사 분야에서의 예산 집행은 어떤지.”

정창영 총장의 이 같은 발언은 결국 ‘대학의 건강상태’를 확인하겠다는 얘기라고 감사원 관계자들은 전했다.

- 이번 감사는 얼마나 걸릴 것인가.

“양건 감사원장이 교육감사를 집중하겠다고 천명했다. 최대한 신속히, 가능한 자원을 모두 동원해 하겠다. 감사위원회 의결을 거치지 않더라도 감사를 한 ‘로 데이터’(raw data·원자료)를 정부와 국회에 제공하겠다. (등록금 책정) 부실 대학과 우수 대학을 섞어서 비교하는 효과도 낼 것이다.”

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