Exodus of students from abroad hurts universities

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Exodus of students from abroad hurts universities

As universities in Korea turned to online classes and many foreign students dropped out or took leaves of absence due to the coronavirus pandemic, colleges outside the Seoul metropolitan area are complaining about plummeting revenues.

Several university officials have told the JoongAng Ilbo recently that hundreds of foreign students either applied to take semesters off or ditched their decision to study in Korea, which is leading to colossal tuition losses.

With Korean students taking courses online from home, universities also complain about empty dorm rooms, cafeterias and campus stores.

With a growing number of students at top-notch universities in Seoul demanding refunds for their tuitions, some university officials in other areas said they were closely monitoring online discussion forums used by their students to look out for similar movements on their campuses.

At Chosun University in Gwangju, about 200 out of 930 foreign students have applied for leaves of absence since the coronavirus outbreak, and only 700 out of 3,000 rooms set aside for foreigners in the school’s dormitories are currently occupied, a spokesperson for the school said.

The school said it has required all professors to upload PowerPoint slides alongside their online videos to appease students frustrated about remote learning, and recently launched a contest rewarding professors who create the best online materials.

Nambu University, another college in Gwangju, also complained of empty dorm rooms and campus coffee shops and convenience stores, saying the school was making far less in rent from stores on campus than before the pandemic.

Nambu said it spent 15 million won ($12,300) on purchasing broadcasting equipment and enhancing its online server since the outbreak spread in Korea and the government advised universities to offer online courses so students wouldn’t have to come to school.

Around 10 million won was spent on maintaining empty dorm rooms, a Nambu spokesperson said.

One university official in Gwangju who requested anonymity said all small- and medium-sized universities in the countryside who have smaller numbers of students and are cash-strapped will go bankrupt if online classes last through the entire first semester.

“The only thing we financially save on from having no students on campus is our electricity and water bills,” the official continued.

Universities have varying deadlines for their online courses, and many have announced plans to indefinitely offer remote learning until Korea’s outbreak is completely subdued.

One school official said many small universities outside cities want to hold normal classes for at least a month to escape mounting calls from students for a tuition refund.

BY JIN CHANG-IL [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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