The average monthly cost of living for university students is 514,000 won. More specifically, students who live at home spend 446,000 won a month, while those who live alone spend 665,000 won. (from a survey of 2,739 university students in 2018 from Albamon) This expense shows that it is very hard to earn the living costs even if they do part-time jobs. This situation has led students to crave scholarships, and in fact they are putting a lot of effort into getting them. In particular, low income students are the most desperate ones. Thus, some universities have made some changes, moving towards abolishing academic scholarships and increasing the programs for low-income students. In a situation where controversy over the abolition of academic scholarships is a campus-wide hot potato, The Konkuk Bulletin will look into the overall progress and find out what system Konkuk University plans to operate.
1. The abolition of academic excellence scholarship
a. Current situations at other universities
In 2016, Korea University abolished the academic scholarship for the first time in Korea. Instead of that, it expanded the “Justice Scholarship: Need based” for lowincome students to reduce tuition fees and to support living expenses. It said that students from high-income parents have a good environment where they can concentrate on their studies with the support of their families. Therefore, they get high grades and get scholarships more easily than other students. On the other hand, students from low income
families have less time to focus on their studies as they do part-time jobs, tutoring, and more to earn tuition fees, which lead to a vicious cycle of failure to receive scholarships. For this reason, Sogang University’s Student Life Team Official said it has also abolished academic scholarship. In addition, there is a movement in the gradual reduction or elimination of academic scholarships at various universities such as Ewha Womans University, Hanyang University, and so on to expand scholarship for students from low-income families.
b. Reasons for abolition
The average cost of monthly living for university students (Including housing, mobile phone charge, cost of the food, and more)
This table shows that our society has a structure in which students from poorer families are forced to work and study together. Therefore, they have less time to study than others. Lim Eun-hui, a researcher at Korea Higher Education Research Institute (KHEI), said students need tens of millions of won to graduate because in the case of private universities, tuition fee is about 10 million won per year, and private dormitories also have to be paid for at between 500,000 to 600,000 won a month for a single room.
The average tuition for the university is 7.46 million won, which is very expensive. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to earn the fee by oneself, even though most universities have frozen their tuition without actually lowering it. Under this situation, some universities like Sogang, Korea, Ewha Womans University, and more are abolishing academic scholarships. This has led to the expansion of scholarships to low-income students and provides an environment that allows them to concentrate in the same conditions as high income students regardless of income.
2. The argument for abolishing academic scholarships
Most of the scholarships for students from low-income family are based on the Family Income Level measured by the Korea Student Aid Foundation (KOSAF). However, there is some controversy that the income measure- ment standards of the KOSAF are unfair. If the taxpayer employs tax evasion or lowers their wealth, the income ranking is measured low. Thus, people argue that the income ranking alone cannot accurately determine the income level. According to the postings uploaded on the university student community such as Bamboo Forest1), Everytime2), and more, there are many postings saying that they are unable to receive scholarships because they are ranked in 10th place even though they are in a difficult situation due to heavy debts and poor work at their parents’ jobs. Due to the vulnerabilities of income ranking system, students who were not eligible for low income scholarships have tried to get an academic scholarship. Therefore, there is an opinion that abolishing or reducing these scholarships is not a positive action but reverse discrimination against the underprivileged. However, schools say that there is no other alternative standards better than the Family Income Level established by KOSAF.
There are also another opinions saying that abolishing it may have a negative impact on students’ academic motivation, because it has served as a motive for one’s academic efforts and achievements. In addition, some students from average income family have lessen their parent’s financial burden with Academic scholarships. Therefore, Choi Sang-shik, Professor of Dongguk University’s Department of Education, said “It is a method to supplement the problem by increasing the financial support of the scholarship so that the students from average income family can receive support. In the case of external scholarship, maintaining the existing way of giving to a student with excellent grades is another solution.”
Family Income Level
The Family Income Level is determined to be in the range of 1 to 10, including parents’ income, level of property and debt, vehicles, and so on. The higher the household income, the higher the Family Income Level. Most income related with scholarships are available only to students under 8.
3. KU scholarship system
<This article is based on the interview with the head director of KU Scholarships & Financial Aid>
KU Scholarships & Financial Aid said that KU plans to maintain the current scholarship system since the abolition of academic excellence scholarships conducted by other schools can be determined by the income level of students. In the case of KU, students with income level from 1 to 7 can receive full tuition as a scholarship. This means that most of the students from low income family are eligible to get a scholarship. Thus, even if the low income scholarships increase, there are no students who meet the conditions and there will be no changes because it will eliminate the opportunities for other scholarships that other students can receive.
The only scholarship that students with high income can receive is an academic one, so KU considered that it would be appropriate to maintain the current system.
MOE designated a law to use more than 10 percent of the total tuition revenues as scholarships for tuition fees. Within this 10 percent, universities can select the ratio of family difficulty and academic excellence scholarship. If there are a large number of students with difficulty in households below 4, there is a tendency to lower the academic excellence scholarships. The abolition of academic scholarships in other universities is possible due to the large number of low income students. On the other hand, KU has fewer students who have low Family Income Level when compared to other schools. Therefore, KU already offers scholarships to all students from low income level under the existing systems. This is why KU cannot change the rules unconditionally. However, it answered that we could change if the number of low-income students increases.
Scholarships are divided into two categories : Tuition and Living expenses
- Scholarships for household difficulties / Academic excellence scholarships (cannot receive more than the tuition fee)
- Labor / General Student Association (GSA) / Volunteer / Competition scholarship, and more (can receive more than the tuition fee)
4. Situation after the abolition of academic scholarship
In the case of Korea University, the students with low income had an improvement in grades. However, many students protested that it was a one-way reorganization without enough notice. Therefore, students experienced confusion because there was no communication between the students and school.
There is no unified rule of abolition because all universities have different numbers of students with poor households. All systems have advantages and disadvantages, so universities must find ways to solve their weaknesses and most importantly, the scholarship system should be changed after sufficient communication with the students.
The reason for the debate over the abolition of the academic scholarship is related to the fact that university entrance rate is as high as 80 percent, while the tuition fee is expensive. Many students are struggling with the academic scholarships issue.
The reporter thinks that universities should consider the meaning of the scholarship and provide the practical alternatives through enough communication with students. University is a place to learn and study, so the environment for this should be prepared.
Lee Hye-been, Editior email@example.com
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