Ruling bloc prefers fees help tailored toward disadvantaged students
Debate over college tuition cuts once again picked up momentum in the parliamentary interpellation on social, education and culture issues on Thursday.
The opposition parties called for an immediate tuition cut, whereas the ruling party claimed that an unconditional cut could lower the education level.
“Some 7 trillion won or half of the nation’s total college tuition is already being wasted as about half of university graduates are currently unemployed,” said Rep. Park Young-ah of the ruling Grand National Party.
“An unconditional tuition cut will only increase such social waste in educational costs.”
Though measures are needed to ease the tuition burden on low-income students and families, quality and cost-efficiency must be considered, she said.
Rep. Kim Choon-jin of the main opposition Democratic Party suggested legislation to obligate schools to spend their tuition funds on students’ education and welfare.
“Korea’s average college tuition fee level is the second highest in the world, next to that of the United States,” said Rim Young-ho of the minority Liberty Forward Party.
“There is a practical reason for the students’ complaints and the government should turn its eye to the heart of the issue, instead of trying to quell the protests.”
The lawmaker also blamed the ruling party for strategically driving the tuition cut issue to make up for its political failure in the April by-elections.
A donation-based admission system was also mentioned as an option.
“The system may be a positive option, if the donated fund is entirely used for the benefits of low-income, academically capable students,” said Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik.
“The system, however, would first need the public consensus.”
Education Minister Lee Ju-ho, too, pledged to draw up further measures to offer financial support to students.
“Though the state scholarship system has largely been reinforced over the past years, we will prepare further measures to respond to the education reality,” the minister said.
The tuition fee cut plan was announced earlier this year as the conservative ruling party, amid struggling to win back public support, vowed to introduce expansion of state scholarship for university students.
“It is not our plan to cut all tuition fees by half, as wrongly described by some, but to seek methods to mitigate the excessive tuition burdens,” said Rep. Hwang Woo-yea, floor leader and acting chairman of the GNP.
The DP, in response, came up with the concept of “educational welfare for all,” an even bolder plan to cut an tuition fees level for all economic brackets.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org