University grads face mounting tuition debt

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University grads face mounting tuition debt

Even with a nationwide effort from various government agencies to reduce the burden of college students’ tuition fees, young people must still repay an average of 14.5 million won ($13,631) in loans, about 300,000 won higher than last year.

According to a survey of 1,070 college graduates released yesterday by the online recruitment portal Saramin, 74.5 percent of respondents said they took out at least one loan while pursuing their undergraduate degrees.

About 75 percent of the respondents said they have borrowed money at least once. And more than half of them said they had to borrow money during more than half of the academic semesters in which they were enrolled.

More than half of the respondents, 51.6 percent, graduated with a debt of between 3 million won and 14 million won.

About 17 percent said they owe between 15 million won and 20 million won, while 15.4 percent said they borrowed between 21 million won and 29 million won.

Around 8 percent borrowed more than 30 million won.

Only 25 percent said they had repaid their debt. More than 90 percent of them were in their 30s or over 40. They said it took them an average of four years to completely pay back their loans.

Those who still have unpaid debt said they pay an average of 220,000 won every month. More than half of them have missed at least one payment.

About 85 percent said they have been forced to tighten their belts, giving up shopping, a social life, a cultural life and saving money.

They explained that the pressure of paying back their tuition loans pushed them to find a job immediately. About 46 percent of the respondents had applied for jobs at companies that were completely unrelated to the academic areas they studied in college or are interested in.

“For those job seekers under a financial burden, employment is a matter of immediacy. They don’t have time to spare to search for an employer that pays better or has better career futures. They just need to start paying off debt,” said Im Min-uk, public relations manager at Saramin.

When asked what they have done to clear their debt, allowing multiple answers, about 30 percent of the respondents said they had lost confidence and the willingness to hunt for jobs.

Another 30 percent said they gave up their dream for a better salary. About 28 percent said they have suffered from depression or other psychological problems.

Some said that they couldn’t even focus on finding jobs due to part-time jobs that sustain their daily lives and enable them to pay off their tuition debt.

BY kim ji-yoon [jiyoon.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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