Universities get a failing grade

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Universities get a failing grade

We are dumbfounded by the way 13 private universities have been running their operations. Identified as bad schools by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, none of them should be allowed to continue operating without significant restructuring. Many of them suffer from a severe lack of funds. With a meager recruitment rate of 39 percent, one school ran its academic calendar with over half of its classrooms empty.

As a result, the universities had to choose a set of extreme measures to sustain their university status by mobilizing all kinds of irregularities, including putting the names of dropouts or relatives of faculty on their enrollment lists. No wonder such erratic practices have led to such equally shameful administrative practices, such as giving credits to students without requiring that they attend classes.

As it turned out, the government has provided a whopping 12.6 billion won in subsidies to the universities for three years since 2007 in what amounts to a massive waste of tax money. The bigger problem is that if the Lee Myung-bak administration provides financial support to universities in an effort to reduce college tuition fees, it will most likely end up extending the lives of the mismanaged institutions.

The problem is not limited to the 13 schools. The number of students our universities can admit is expected to exceed the number of high school graduates beginning in 2017, and that will increase the number of other universities that cannot recruit enough students to operate successfully.

Before the government offers more financial aid to failing universities, it should require that the schools implement significant reforms. Helping such poorly administrated universities continue to operate is a waste of government funds, not to mention a blow to the competitiveness of our educational entities.

The government has said it will enforce a compulsory closure of the 13 universities in question unless they return to normal operation. However, because universities have to return all of their assets to the government when they close their doors, the measure lacks practicality and feasibility. Instead, the solution lies is creating a better environment for bad universities to shut down. Fortunately, both the ruling and opposition parties agree that tuition cuts should go along with restructuring efforts. It is high time for the National Assembly to pass a revised bill that would weed out poorly-managed universities across the country.

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