Quality of education counts

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Quality of education counts

The government has announced that it will spend a whopping 1.75 trillion won this year to increase the amount of scholarships for college students in an effort to alleviate the burden of skyrocketing tuitions. When you add another 750 billion won to be covered by universities’ own efforts to lower tuitions or raise scholarships, a total of 2.5 trillion won will be used to slash college costs.

When that happens, some students in the lower income bracket can expect their tuitions to be cut by about 25 percent compared to last year. Though the government has a long way to go before achieving the ambitious goal of half-price tuitions for college students, it still represents a massive investment in higher education by the government, which was previously all in the realm of private institutions.

Thanks to the government initiative, universities across the country have begun to submit to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology a document that includes details on their tuition cuts and the amount of scholarships they have built up through their own efforts. Based on the data, the ministry plans to distribute a budget of one trillion won to universities.

But universities are feeling a bit uncomfortable as they hand in their forms. Most universities in Seoul and Gyeonggi province say they cannot make up for the inevitable deficit — amounting to billions of won per school — from tuition cuts, even with the government subsidies. As a result, an increasing number have either stopped efforts to upgrade their education infrastructure, such as building on campuses, or have frozen human costs like salaries for professors and other faculty members, raising sharp criticism of the government for an abrupt deterioration of the quality of education due to its arbitrary intervention on the tuition issue.

If the ministry evaluates universities’ efforts solely on their proposed scholarships and tuition cuts, it can lead to a completely opposite outcome than what was intended, and the damage will be paid for by the students who get an inferior education. If the government really wants to see our universities compete with top universities overseas, they must raise the quality of education first and foremost.

The government must provide more funds to those schools that teach their students well. Universities also must reply to the government’s assistance by raising revenue from other sources than tuitions, like alumni donations. It’s time to shift the fight over tuition cuts to a war to raise education quality.
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