Blame high tuition on colleges

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Blame high tuition on colleges

colCollege tuition fees have doubled over the last decade, outpacing inflation by two- or three-fold. Students and parents struggle to pay for college, and the Board of Audit and Inspection discovered why tuition fees have become so expensive. It examined the guidelines on setting tuition fees and the financial operations at 113 universities nationwide. According to the preliminary report, many were found to have inflated their budgets to raise tuition and recklessly spent revenue. The findings suggest that universities have room to lower tuition rates with well-appropriated and managed budgets that are transparent, accountable and efficient.

The biggest reason for tuition hikes has been the rampant practice of inflating budgets and settlements. When estimating the budget, expenditures have been inflated while nontuition revenue like donations have been scaled down from than the actual amounts received. The budgets and financial settlements of 35 universities over the last five years showed an average annual difference of 18.7 billion won ($16.8 million). The gap has translated into higher tuition.

Accounting malpractice also played a part in increasing tuition. A host of universities have been discovered to have spent school funds to pay for things that should have been paid by their foundations or corporate funds. Donations and funds for campus facilities were also funneled into foundations, while funding for reconstruction and renovations came from school accounts instead of their foundations. The shortfall again was billed to students.

Their finances were also a mess. Of the 113 universities, 50 were marred by corruption and embezzlement by board members, presidents, professors and staff. The Board of Audit and Inspection filed charges against 90. The direct voting system was also abused with one university president raising the allowance for his staff by 12 billion won to keep his campaign pledge.

The work of universities has now been laid out. They should stop complaining about government inspections and endeavor to enhance transparency. They must publicize their guidelines for setting tuition as well as the difference between their budgets and settlements. They must reinforce tuition review committees within the universities. Otherwise they invite outside intervention. Only 12 percent run an auditing board. Universities must take the initiative to toughen their auditing system. They also should abolish the direct election of presidents and work to close down uncompetitive colleges.

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