Korea’s drive to halve col­lege tu­ition and US free tu­ition

The Korea Times - - EDUCATION - By Lee Kyung-man jameskml@ya­hoo.co.kr Lee is an English teacher at Dae­won Girls' High School in Seoul.

Univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion, as well as early childhood pro­grams, have a very im­por­tant role in per­sonal hap­pi­ness and na­tional com­pet­i­tive­ness. But be­cause univer­sity is not a com­pul­sory level of ed­u­ca­tion, its ex­pen­sive tu­ition fees are a prob­lem in Korea and the US.

For ex­am­ple, in 2016, the tu­ition in Korea at Ewha Wo­mans Univer­sity (5.9 mil­lion won) was 3.8 times as ex­pen­sive as that at the Univer­sity of Seoul (1.5 mil­lion won), which has been im­ple­ment­ing a pol­icy to halve tu­ition costs since 2012.

More­over, 500 bil­lion won will be al­lo­cated an­nu­ally to sup­port the pol­icy to halve tu­ition at 52 na­tional and city uni­ver­si­ties.

In the U.S., in April 2017 New York Gover­nor An­drew Cuomo an­nounced a deal for fam­i­lies with an­nual in­comes of less than $125,000 that would make tu­ition free at the City and State Univer­sity of New York Sys­tems, for both com­mu­nity col­leges, four-year col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. That free tu­ition plan is now part of the New York State bud­get. The gover­nor’s of­fice has also said that nearly 940,000 fam­i­lies in New York State will be el­i­gi­ble for free pub­lic col­lege tu­ition when the plan is fully phased in.

How­ever, the agree­ment re­quires those who re­ceive free tu­ition to live and work in the state for the same num­ber of years that they re­ceive the awards. If they do not, the schol­ar­ships will re­vert to stu­dent loans. Schol­ars have his­tor­i­cally raised the crit­i­cism that such poli­cies of try­ing to "tether" stu­dents to states won’t work. More­over, free tu­ition for pub­lic higher ed­u­ca­tion is not a new idea. Many pub­lic col­leges — in­clud­ing the City Col­lege of CUNY — were founded un­der such an idea. For a time, all of CUNY was tu­ition-free; how­ever, that ended in 1976, when New York City faced a fis­cal cri­sis.

In an­other case, in 2014, Ten­nessee Gover­nor Bill Haslam, a Repub­li­can, pro­posed and quickly won ap­proval to make com­mu­nity col­leges free in his state. Many in­di­vid­ual com­mu­nity col­lege dis­tricts — in par­tic­u­lar in Cal­i­for­nia — have em­braced this idea with a va­ri­ety of ap­proaches to free com­mu­nity col­lege.

Many ex­perts in­sist on in­vest­ments in ed­u­ca­tion. Pro­fes­sor James Heck­man of the Univer­sity of Chicago said that “Life-cy­cle Ben­e­fits” have sub­stan­tial ben­e­fi­cial im­pacts on health, chil­dren’s future la­bor in­come, crime, ed­u­ca­tion, and moth­ers’ la­bor in­come, with greater mon­e­tized ben­e­fits for males. Also, ac­cord­ing to re­searchers at Har­vard, chil­dren who par­tic­i­pated in Head Start showed col­lege en­roll­ment lev­els higher than those of chil­dren who did not par­tic­i­pate.

On Jan. 27, 2012, for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama sup­ported the idea that earn­ing col­lege de­grees is as­so­ci­ated with a de­clin­ing un­em­ploy­ment rate and ris­ing in­comes. The un­em­ploy­ment rate of Amer­i­cans with col­lege de­grees is low; their in­comes are twice as high as those who have no de­gree. 60% of new jobs in the future will re­quire more than a high school diploma. Hence, the gov­ern­ment is pur­su­ing a coun­try in which it is not only the few who have a chance to suc­ceed — ev­ery­body does. There needs to be more ef­fort made to form an econ­omy in which ev­ery Amer­i­can has ac­cess to a world class ed­u­ca­tion.

UBC Eco­nom­ics Pro­fes­sor John Hel­li­well once said: “Happy coun­tries are those where fam­ily and friends share good health, in­come, per­sonal free­dom and a trust­wor­thy en­vi­ron­ment; these con­di­tions can be cre­ated through so­cial sup­port for ed­u­ca­tion.” His words cast a long shadow.

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