Colleges tighten rules on postponing graduation

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Colleges tighten rules on postponing graduation

A female student surnamed Park, 25, gained admission to Korea University in 2009. She completed enough credits to graduate two years ago, yet she has no plans to leave the prestigious school.

The decision is not up to her, she says. Living in a country where some of the top companies only hire college seniors as new recruits, Park is determined to keep her undergraduate status until she finds a job.

But the past two years have been fruitless.

“I usually study at a cafe near my house,” said Park. “I’m afraid if I go to the school library the juniors might talk behind my back and [belittle me] for not having graduated yet.”

The number of college seniors putting off graduation despite having the necessary qualifications is steadily rising, data from the Ministry of Education shows. Among the student bodies of 26 universities nationwide, 8,270 people delayed graduation in 2011 while 18,570 did so last year.

The 26 schools studied by the ministry were among a larger group of universities that allow seniors to postpone graduation. Each has a student body of more than 10,000.

Policies allowing students to put off graduation varies among universities, with some schools requiring seniors to pay a portion of his or her tuition or enroll in a course.

Of 121 local universities that allow students to put off graduation, 75 order seniors to sign up for at least one course. Twenty-one others require these students to pay tuition even if they do not take any classes, according to statistics from the Ministry of Education.

A recent policy change at Ewha Womans University in Seodaemun District, northwestern Seoul, angered some students earlier last week when the school announced that seniors could no longer defer graduation for free.

Starting this year, those who have completed their credits must pay one-sixth of the tuition fee and sign up for at least one unit each semester. Based on calculations from last year’s tuition fee, an Ewha senior majoring in humanities or social sciences will have to pay around 600,000 won ($550) to the school.

Some other schools, including Konkuk University in Gwangjin District, southeastern Seoul, and Seoul National University of Science and Technology in Nowon District, northern Seoul, implemented similar policies for this year, too.

“Unemployment is a social issue, but why do college students have to deal with the effects?” asked Lee Seul-ji, 23, from Sogang University in Mapo District, western Seoul.

“College students are really desperate people trying to wipe off any flaw that works against getting a job,” said a Konkuk University senior surnamed Kwon.

“But universities are taking advantage of that urgency by trying to make money from their tuition fees.”

BY KIM SUN-MI [selee@joongang.co.kr]

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