South Korea's private universities could cut tuition fees by as much as 15 percent if the government funds their scholarship programs, the head of a private universities' council said Sunday, amid a growing political debate over tuition cuts.
Park Chul, who heads a council of presidents of private universities, told Yonhap News Agency in an interview that the council is surveying its members for opinions on such a trade-off between lower tuition fees and government-subsidized scholarships.
"Under education laws, private universities are required to offer 10 percent of their income from tuition fees as scholarships, while some universities even offer 15 percent," said Park, who doubles as the president of the privately owned Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.
"In a recent meeting with the (ruling) Grand National Party (GNP), some people raised the possibility of universities bearing that level (10 to 15 percent) on the condition that the government supports scholarship funding.
GNP officials also said it was a good idea and worth considering."
Without the government's support, he said all the council's members say it will be impossible to halve tuition fees as envisioned by Hwang Woo-yea, the GNP's new floor leader.
The legislator recently unveiled the plan as part of a package of welfare measures aimed at wooing back voters ahead of next year's general elections.
Critics doubt the project's feasibility, due to the enormous budget it requires, but rival parties largely agreed on the need for curbing tuition fees.
"We will collect and pass on the opinions of our members to the GNP either on Monday or Tuesday before politicians come out with their own tuition policy," Park said.