Universities overcharge applicants
By Kim Rahn
Kang, a 20-year-old freshman at a women’s university in Seoul, applied to four colleges at the end of last year to take the entrance exams.
The fine art major aspirant paid an average 100,000 won in application fees per school, adding up to roughly 400,000 won.
“I thought the fees were expensive. Moreover, I actually only took two of the four tests, as I passed the one for my current school before even taking the tests for the remaining two. I couldn’t get a refund from the other two schools,” she said.
Kang was one of hundreds of thousands of college entrance exam applicants who paid some 50,000 won on average per application to universities last year. By collecting the application fees, colleges gained billions of won this year, according to a report, Friday.
The report released by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Korean Council for University Education showed 181 colleges collected 196.2 billion won in fees last year.
The figure was up 2.9 percent from 190 billion won ($163 million) a year before, and the gains increased because examinees were able to apply to more schools than the previous year.
An applicant paid an average 54,200 won per application, 200 won lower than the previous year. While national universities dropped fees by an average 1,800 won to 35,100 won, private ones raised them by 400 won to 57,900 won.
The schools said they used the money for promotions, sessions to introduce exam details to applicants, and to pay special allowances to school staff helping in the application process.
While most schools spent almost all the money they collected, some made huge margins.
Dongguk University gained more than1.7 billion won as it collected 40 billion won and spent some 22 billion won. Another 11 universities, including the University of Seoul and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, also made more than 500 million won.
As schools are criticized for “doing business” and ripping off test-takers, the ministry plans to lower the fees for national colleges and encourage private ones to follow suit.
It also plans to revise regulations to force colleges to return the fees to applicants who decide not to take the test or who cancel the application. The ministry is moving to hasten the revision process so that the new rule can take effect beginning from this year’s admission season.
Schools will also have to make public their plans on how application fees will be collected and how those fees are spent.