University students in South Korea share the same dilemma regarding school tuition fees. They usually have to bear the heavy burden of paying huge sums of money in the pursuit of higher education. In order to afford the enormous amount of money required to pursue post-secondary learning, students sign up for so-called ‘Alba’, Korean term for taking on a part-time job, or a student loan. In face of these financial realities, university tuition fees are always a particular concern to young people in Korea. Taking a look at Dankook University’s (DKU) tuition fees for the College of Arts & Design, the average annual payment is 8 million won, making it the highest cost in the university. This bewildered many people leaving them to ask why the College of Arts & Design could cost that much when the advantages received are falling behind. Dankookians (students of DKU) from the College of Arts & Design have criticized he unreasonably high tuition rates and the Dankook Herald (DKH) find out why the department charges the art students as much as they do.
|▲ College students in association with People Power are asking the universities to establish graduation prep fee in the tuition fees.|
Students from College of Arts & Design assume the reason for the high tuition is due to equipment expenses. For instance, the Department of Ceramic Arts own several pricey devices such a s CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) and a 3D printer. However, this cannot alone account for the high costs of tuition. In most practical training projects, students are required to spend their own money to complete their work, despite the fact that the school states the high tuition includes a budget for practical training. Aside from paying for their own practice, the Student Council of College of Arts & Design stated they felt the welfare policies were inappropriate in quality as compared to how much they pay. The Student Council stated that most students had no idea whether welfare policies exist or not. Even if the facilities did exist, their current statement implies that students are uninformed about them and the responsibility for a low approach to the facilities lies on the school authorities for not publicizing their availability.
Graduation costs are also a high burden for College of Arts & Design students. Students in the college have to participate in a graduation performance or an exhibition in order to graduate. The show or exhibition is a must, but to participate in the graduation show, students have to pay extra money over and above regular tuition. Yu Kihong, the 19th congressman representing Gwanak-gu, carried out research on graduation exhibitions. He submitted the results to the National Assembly’s Education, Culture, Sports & Tourism Committee. Yu announced that DKU’s Department of Fashion Merchandise collects 2.1 million won per student for graduation preparation which is the highest among his 380 subjects. However, the students do not know how the graduation prep fee is used and calculated. Yu and the Student Council of College of Arts & Design both believe the school is holding their diplomas hostage by requiring students to pay a “ransom” because it knows that seniors are desperate to graduate.
In contrast to the burdensome charges, Dankookians attending the College of Arts & Design are not received the most basic facilities such as a room for practice. The School of Performance Film is assigned the second basement floor of Gymnasium & Performing Arts Center. A student representative told the DKH that undergraduates from School of Performance Film are constantly being bothered by noise when they are practicing or actually performing. Above their studio, sports sessions are running making loud noises. Since the studio is located on the second basement floor, it is damp and the walls are leaking, but that is where students have to spend the whole day, or even night. Young artists felt like they are at risk of being electrocuted during practice. Furthermore, working in the moldy studio is only possible at appointed group practice sessions. Due to the small space of the second basement floor, most students cannot use it for private practice.
The biggest problem identified is that school authorities seem indifferent to student complaints. Students are paying high tuition rates and in return they are exposed to a school environment that is far below adequate minimum standards. The Student Council of College of Arts & Design has voiced their concerns about their poor education environment persistently and finally received a commitment from the school to check up on the space allocated to them at the Gymnasium & Performing Arts Center. However, several weeks have passed since the university made the commitment, but the still haven’t offered any practical solutions or made a commitment to provide better facilities. The Student Council of College of Arts & Design rages at how DKU was not guaranteeing a quality education environment, while mobilizing the students for the 70th anniversary events. Students are feeling insulted and deceived.
Tuition fees for all college departments in Korea are set during a meeting of the Tuition Review Committee (TRC). The Tuition Review Committee organizes advisory boards to allocate tuition fees for the year. Students of Art & Design feel highly burdened upon the custom additional expenditure for practice and graduation over tuition. The contradictory custom can be dissolved by establishing budget for graduation and practical training sessions. Both items being excluded from the regular tuition located them beyond the reach of inspection, risking the transparency of finance management, as congressman Yu argues. However, the establishment of such items should not lead to a drastic raise of the tuition fees. The solution premises TRC reconstructing the current tuition from the base by reviewing the necessity of each item and auditing actual usage. The Student Council of College of Arts, Hongik University most urgently requires that university corporations engage in conversations with the student body on this matter.
According to People Power, the situation at other universities is no different from DKU. The organization of citizen activists suggests forming a coalition with other college student councils to produce more meaningful results. Acts of solidarity could protect the rights of students at the College of Arts & Design by introducing more just regulations regarding the use of tuition fees. Legislation regarding tuition fees only states that the TRC sets the rate of payment, but other than that, it is insufficient to address current conflicts. Therefore, it is imperative to make efforts to ensure a more sophisticated and transparent disclosure of expenses, so that all students can accept the tuition evaluation and ensure proper student welfare.
No matter how loud the students cry for the reform of tuition fees, the decision still lies with the authority, namely the administration of the department and this is based on how they do the accounting. Students, regardless of what department or college they are from, should be treated fairly and should not become the target of exploitation.
Education is available to many and should be seen as a tool of enlightenment, not one for profit. The university is a private institution and so it is forced to apply a sustainable fee for the operation of the school. However, an unreasonable policy is not an excuse to shift the financial burden on to the students.
박채리, Edward Ng, 윤진현 email@example.com