Extra! Korea

March 15, 2009

Costly Yet Worthless University Degrees

Filed under: education — extrakorea @ 6:30 am

When I saw this cartoon, I wondered how much of a financial burden university students have to deal with. Now I know, courtesy of this article:

“Private universities annually charging up to $6,800 and government’s lukewarm measures are pushing students to kill themselves,” they said in a joint statement.

Although the government offers loans with low-interest rates to 720,000 students, it is far from helping students suffering from the worsening economy, it said. “The government should allot more of its budget to help students pay tuition costs.”

They also visited Yonsei University and held a media conference, demanding the school raise measures against high interest rates on installment payments of tuition with credit cards, whereby students are required to pay nearly 20 percent interest.

I think it’s unfortunate that Korean university degrees are this costly and yet, in my opinion, worthless. The Joongang Ilbo boasted about how almost all Korean university students graduate, but as someone who teaches at a university, I can tell you why. Students can only fail through excessive absences. Even if they sleep in class, do no homework, and bomb on all of their exams, they will still pass. And even if they fail, they can try again, and their old mark is erased as if it had never existed. If you don’t believe me, then look at this article:

Korea ranked high among world countries in higher education achievement but near the bottom in quality.

In the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2008, published by the International Institute of Management Development in Switzerland, Korea is ranked a poor 53rd among 55 nations in terms of university education meeting the needs of a competitive economy, one of the indices that indicate quality levels.

If you are still skeptical, then look at the world university rankings. Seoul National University, Korea’s most prestigious and often referred to as “the Harvard of Korea,” ranks only 50th, 63rd, 182nd, or 152nd-200th, depending upon which ranking system you choose. There’s a lot of diversity, but no matter what, Korea’s top universities never make it near the top, even though Korea is an advanced, industrialized country with an economy that is about the 12th largest in the world. Unfortunately, like so much here, the primary importance is placed upon appearance, not substance.

Edit/Update:

Here is another article about how the rise in tuition is greatly outpacing inflation.

There’s an old saying in Korea that parents have to sell a cow to put their sons or daughters through college.

Well, that may have been possible 30 years ago, but today it doesn’t even come close, according to a study on national university tuition costs and the price of cows between 1978 and 2008 by the Rural Development Administration.

According to the report, a 600-kilogram (1,300-pound) hanwoo bull sold in 1978 for 588,000 won ($438).

Back then a year’s worth of tuition at a national university cost 113,500 won. That means selling one cow could in fact pay for four years of schooling.

Today college tuition has shot up, and in 2008 the same universities on average cost 8.19 million won per year.

A cow of the same weight now sells for 3.89 million won, so it would take eight to nine cows to get a student through a four-year course.

1 Comment »

  1. […] Chosun’s article there was some indication as to why they’re so expensive (and yet give so little value for the money). A ministry official said, “Under the current revenue structure, the […]

    Pingback by How expensive are Korean universities? « Extra! Korea — May 12, 2009 @ 2:25 pm


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