University students demand refunds for semesters held online

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University students demand refunds for semesters held online

Students are furious over some universities’ plans to hold their entire spring semester online this year and are raising their voices for a tuition refund.

A coalition of student councils representing 22 national and public universities in Korea recently said that it would release a joint statement later this month asking their schools for a refund, and the Ministry of Education for financial support for the institutions to deal with the aftermath.

“Most students say they don’t think they’re receiving education equivalent to the tuition they paid,” said Do Yeon-ho, student president of Pusan National University in Busan. “I think universities should return part of our tuition or offer some sort of special scholarships to reimburse students.”

Calls from students for a tuition refund have been simmering for weeks in Korea ever since universities first announced plans in late February to hold all their classes online until the coronavirus outbreak is contained.

Lately, however, those demands have been growing more vociferously as some colleges said they’re not going to hold normal classes at all this semester and maintain their current e-learning system.

New daily infections of the coronavirus in Korea have dropped to the single digits recently, yet schools are still shut down out of fear that a second wave may occur like in Singapore, where infections shot back up after schools reopened.

Pusan National University previously said it would hold online classes until this coming Saturday, but last Sunday, it reversed course by announcing the system would be maintained for the entire semester.

Dong-A University, also in Busan, previously said it would offer online classes till last Sunday, but later said the remote learning system would continue indefinitely. Kyungsung University, Pukyong National University and National Korea Maritime and Ocean University, all in Busan, have also announced they would indefinitely maintain their current e-learning systems.

When asked about the amplifying demands for tuition refunds, an official at Kyungsung University said it was impossible for universities to make a decision on the matter on their own, and that the Education Ministry should come forward with concrete guidelines for colleges to follow.

Earlier this month, the ministry launched discussions on the issue with the Korean Council for University Education, the country’s core association of four-year universities, and sources with knowledge of the talks said both sides have appeared to come to the consensus that universities would refund their students’ tuitions.

One major issue they remain at loggerheads over, however, is how the ministry is going to financially help universities with the subsequent financial losses.

Some universities like Busan Arts College and Dong-Eui Institute of Technology already began their four-week summer breaks last week in the hopes that the coronavirus outbreak will be entirely over by the end of the vacation.

BY LEE EUN-JI [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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