The legislation process is under way to cut university tuition fees. Similar efforts are being made by the administration. But it will be no less important for the administration to close private universities and colleges whose lifeline is nothing but government subsidies.
On Wednesday, the parliamentary committee on education approved a bill banning the transfer of collected tuition fees to reserves except to make up for the one for the depreciation of buildings. The bill, when approved at a plenary session and signed into law, will help put an end to the practice of raising tuition fees and putting a large chunk of them into reserves for various purposes.
As the education minister remarked, private universities and colleges will have to collect more contributions, launch for-profit projects and take other managerial and financial measures if they wish to start new projects. They have been ill advised to finance the construction of new buildings and the purchase of new equipment mainly with money from the pockets of students’ parents.
The administration has also decided to take punitive action against national universities that have misappropriated tuition fees in violation of its guidelines. It said it will cut its subsidies to 14 national universities by 6 billion won next year and that the money will be given instead to rule-abiding universities.
But the administration can save much more money by withholding subsidies to private universities and colleges that have a serious problem in recruiting students. One such case involves a provincial private college, which, citing financial difficulties, recently paid a faculty member only 130,000 won of his monthly salary and delayed the payment of the remainder until after tuition fees were collected. Its founder was recently convicted of embezzlement in an appeals court.
Another private college used part of the money it received from the government for scholarships to entertain high school teachers for student recruitment. It goes without saying that the government should withhold subsidies to the college so that it will be forced to close. But a more serious problem is that there are so many institutions of high education that do not deserve any official support.