SNU’s fresh approach welcomedSeoul National University is reportedly considering a plan to grant full scholarships to students from poor families beginning with the second semester, which starts in September. The plan would benefit students from households that spend less than 89,700 won a month on national health insurance and less than 200,000 won on annual net property tax.
If the plan goes into effect, it is expected to benefit 10 percent of the student body. SNU says it will push ahead with the plan by reducing expenses and utilizing its accumulated growth funds. We welcome the university’s effort to substantially reduce the tuition burden on students from the unprivileged class.
Most of our universities give scholarships to students based on their academic performance and this practice has contributed to the improvement of global rankings.
However, the trend in developed countries is a system of financial aid based on need that takes into account a student’s or parent’s ability to pay tuition.
For instance, Harvard University students don’t have to pay a cent for their tuition if their parents’ annual income is below $60,000. If their parents’ income is between $60,000 and $120,000, they only pay 1 percent to 9 percent of the tuition; if the income is between $120,000 and $180,000, the amount is reduced to 10 percent. Dartmouth College does not ask students to pay at all if their parents’ income is less than $75,000.
This shows that a student’s economic status is a crucial criteria for determining how much they should pay for tuition. Although U.S. college tuition fees are among the highest in the world, one third of college students receive scholarships. What enables universities to adopt such a generous system is a very active donation system and the universities’ own efforts to collect donations from alumni.
Amid the sweeping controversy over half-price tuition, our universities appear to desire more financial support from the government. But many schools habitually waste their budgets, which mostly come from tuition fees.
They should first strive to cut operating costs.
The SNU plan is well-timed, too. The idea of providing favors for underprivileged students could eliminate the populist elements involved in having indiscriminate tuition cuts for all students. We hope other universities will join the school’s drive to reduce students’ financial burden.