Private and public universities in South Korea have engaged in creative accounting practices resulting in excessive hikes in tuition fees, the state audit agency said Thursday.
Wrapping up an investigation into 35 randomly chosen universities, including nine public institutions, the Board of Audit and Inspection said the institutions had habitually manipulated their accounting books over the past five years to justify steep rises in tuition expenses.
The BAI estimated the creative bookkeeping produced a total of 655.2 billion won ($579.3 million) in inappropriate income for the universities, or 18.7 billion won annually per school in the last five years.
The audit came amid growing public calls for schools to slash tuitions and disclose their financial statements transparently in a bid to cut education fees.
The state watchdog said it will notify the education ministry of the audit results so the universities accused of deceptive accounting or dishonest diversion of tuition fees are disadvantaged in the provision of state subsidies.
In another inspection of 113 universities, senior officials and professors at some 50 institutions allegedly took school funds but neglected their duty, it noted.
The BAI said it will request authorities investigate 90 people suspected of embezzlement and other illegal activities and instruct the government to take disciplinary action against those involved.
Since tuition fees emerged as a hot political issue this summer, the government and ruling party have unveiled a package of measures to cut tuition fees and increase scholarships for students from lower-income families as part of efforts to woo voters ahead of next year’s general and presidential elections.