Ministry doesn't plan to give students money
"Basically, schools have to engage in active discussions with their students over the tuition issue and work it out among themselves," a high-level official from the Education Ministry said Thursday.
The government "can’t directly give cash to students" as it did to the general public with the Covid-19 relief fund, the official continued.
While the Education Ministry is currently reviewing calls from students for a tuition refund after the spring semester was derailed by the coronavirus outbreak, another Education Ministry official said Thursday that any involvement in the case from the government side will probably be financial support to schools, not students.
The government “will take a look at the universities’ finances and search for ways to support them,” the official said, but warned that any help from the government “must go alongside efforts from universities.”
The comments came only two days after the ministry said it would look into the heated controversy over tuition refunds, hinting at a possible intervention in a controversy that has plagued college campuses across the nation.
For months, college students have been clamoring for refunds amid disrupted classes due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Most universities in Korea were supposed to start the school year on March 2, but they veered toward remote learning as the pandemic raged on and the government advised schools not to hold normal classes unless it was absolutely necessary.
Students were asked to come to school only in exceptional cases, such as for a test or a practical lesson involving professors’ guidance.
Universities have refused to offer refunds, citing lost profits from empty cafeterias, convenience stores and dormitories on their campuses, and the absence of international students, who had provided important revenue for Korean universities. Increased spending for online education infrastructure has also been frequently cited as a chief reason why schools couldn’t offer refunds.
The National University Student Council Network, a coalition of nationwide student councils in Korea, has threatened to take the case to court, and said it was currently fielding plaintiffs across the country for a class action. The network said earlier this week that more than 2,000 students from over 70 universities have joined so far.
BY NAM YOON-SEO, LEE SUNG-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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