By Jhoo Dong-chan
Tuition at the nation's law schools may drop by 15 percent, giving more opportunities to students from lower income brackets to study law, in a plan being considered by the Ministry of Education.
Also, the ministry plans to recommend that law schools expand scholarships to students from low-income brackets while reducing the current merit-based scholarships.
The education ministry said Sunday that they are discussing the issue with private law schools. The average tuition for the nation's 15 private law schools is 20 million won ($17,152) annually.
"Law schools have been under fire for only educating wealthy people. But in reality, there are many more students from low-income brackets at law schools. So we are considering lowering the tuition in order to provide more opportunities for such students," said an education ministry official.
Of a total of 6,021 students in the nation's 25 law schools, 22.3 percent, or 1,344 students, turned out to be from households whose annual income is lower than 26 million won ($22,300) as of 2014, according to a report released by the ministry and the Korean Association of Law Schools.
Many law schools have said that a tuition cut is not feasible due to financial difficulties. Their annual earnings through tuition are only 23 billion won ($19.7 million) whereas the total labor costs for faculty and staff exceed 28 billion won.
However, the education ministry said that they can lower the tuition if they restructure their high-cost faculty system.
The law schools have 537 full-time instructors as faculty members, hiring 225 more instructors than the government-advised standard of 312. Many schools hired such a large number of instructors to obtain a law school license from the government when the law school boom struck the country early on and licenses were limited.
The ministry said that it will ease regulations for the schools to freely decide the number of faculty members to reduce labor costs.
The ministry said that if private law schools agree to do so, tuition is expected to be lowered in 2017.