Fears of not landing a job lead to grade inflation

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Fears of not landing a job lead to grade inflation

Increasingly worried about a tightened job market due to the economic slump, university students are begging their professors to give them better grades to make their resumes look prettier.

College professors, aware of their desperation and under pressure to help graduates land jobs, are granting those requests and grade inflation is raging.

A study described by the Ministry of Education yesterday proved the practice is rampant among Korean higher education institutions.

The ministry reported that 90 percent of students who graduated last August and in February from 173 four-year universities had GPAs of B or higher.

Of the 90 percent, 33.2 percent maintained A averages during their four-year educations. Among the 173 schools, 24 are state and public universities.

The percentage of students with B averages or higher at state universities stood at 94.2 percent, 5.4 percent more than at private colleges, where the figure was 88.8 percent.

“Anyone with common sense will recognize grades are being inflated, which leads to an erosion of trust in higher education institutions,” said Yi Su-yeon, a researcher at the Korea Higher Education Research Institute.

“Universities here should remember their original role as academic institutions that teach the value of knowledge, rather than being solely focused on producing graduates ready to land jobs.”

The ministry also reported the college tuitions spent on university educations. For the 2013 academic year, it costs an average of 6.67 million won ($5,997) to go to college, 0.46 percent lower than the previous year.

“We have no way of knowing now where Korea ranks in terms of amount of college tuition spent among OECD nations this year because we don’t have data from other countries,” said Cho Hong-sun, an official at the education statistics office at the ministry. “But Korea ranked second following the U.S. among OECD countries in an OECD report on college tuition published in 2011.”

The issue of university tuition is politically sensitive in an education-crazy country with civic groups and students demanding the government reduce tuition costs - and politicians promising to do so.

The issue was a major one in the presidential campaign last year with the main opposition Democratic United Party calling for cutting of tuitions in half.

In a testament to high education costs, Korean parents were found to spend 77.08 million won on their children during their college years, according to data released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare earlier this month.

In contrast to the West, Korean parents are known for long parental care that continues well past their children becoming adults and graduating from colleges. Even so, the 77.08 million won figure was the largest expense in 22 years of childrearing, which on average totaled 308.96 million won.

By Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]
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