The government, joined by political circles and universities, is preparing various measures to solve the thorny issue of reducing high tuitions for universities.
According to a 2009 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report, South Korea ranks second after the United States on a list of countries with the highest average college tuitions.
The National Assembly's committee on education, science and technology has recently decided to pass a bill to restrict universities from accumulating large amounts of surplus tuitions as reserve funds.
Many universities and colleges have been criticized for accumulating huge reserve funds with money from tuition revenues. Such reserve funds piled up last year in 100 major private universities reached 811.7 billion won. The parliament's move to stop the practice is welcome, although belated.
The government is stepping up its efforts to restructure uncompetitive universities and colleges. The education ministry plans to slash the enrollment quota for national and public universities that rank in 15 percent from the bottom in competitiveness. About 50 private and public schools may be subject to restructuring and will have to shut down under the ministry plan.
The ministers of education and knowledge economy also agreed to stop providing financial support to uncompetitive universities which rely on government subsidies. About 20 billion won in government subsidies were injected into 30 such universities last year, creating a public consensus that restructuring of poorly managed universities should precede the reduction of tuitions.
The political circles also should back up the government efforts to weed out uncompetitive universities.
It's fortunate that universities also are showing efforts to help resolve the high tuition problem.
Seoul National University is reportedly considerings a plan to waive tuitions for students from low-income families from the fall semester. Of the 16,325 undergraduate students at the school, some 1,700 to 2,000 are expected to benefit from the new measure, according to SNU officials.
Yonsei University also plans to boost the amount of its scholarship for students from the present 31 percent to 40 percent of its total tuition income within the next five years, while Gangwon Provincial College said it will abolish tuition by 2014 and run with only subsidies from the provincial government.
We hope other universities would seriously consider steps to relieve the heavy financial burden of students and parents.
The problem of reducing university tuitions has becomne a national hot-button issue but it also is a very sticky problem to be resolved in a day. So the recent moves to resolve the issue can be considered desirable. We hope all concerned parties should join hands to resolve the problem in earnest.