The first semester of 2017 is coming to an end, and the first scholarship application of this year is drawing near with it. As there have been many controversies regarding SKKU’s scholarship system since the beginning of this school year, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) will now report about SKKU’s current scholarship system and elaborate on information about the recent changes that have been made.
SKKU’s Current Scholarship System
SKKU is known to have a large variety of scholarships which can be divided into three different categories. The first category is the admission scholarships of SKKU. Admission scholarships are granted to students with high Korean College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT) scores or to those selected for special departments such as the Global Biomedical Engineering Department or the Software Department. The admission scholarships take up a large majority of SKKU’s scholarship budget because qualified students are provided with full-payment of their school tuition.
The second category contains the general scholarships of SKKU, which all students can benefit from. The academic achievement scholarship is a typical example of the general scholarship and every student has a fair chance of benefiting from it. Another example of the general scholarship is the meritorious service scholarship, which is provided to students that contribute to SKKU by leading a school club, participating in the student council, or working as a student journalist. There are scholarships distributed based on students financial situations as well.
The last category concerns scholarships exclusively available for students in particular conditions. These ‘special’ scholarships are given out to those with physical difficulties or to those with either parent working for SKKU.
SKKU Scholarship System’s Financial Situation
According to SKKU’s financial report that was made public in February 2017, the school used about \30 billion out of the total tuition profit of \150 billion throughout the year. The school administration staff claimed that the SKKU’s scholarship provision rate of 36.8% is higher than that of other universities such as Korea University’s 34.3% and Yonsei University’s 34.0%. Statistics showed that SKKU’s scholarship system is providing \3 million per student. Not many students, however, have felt that they are benefiting from the school’s scholarship system and numerous controversies surfaced this semester.
Recent Controversies and Changes of the Scholarship System
Footbridge Scholarship Reduced without Communication
Recently, there is confusion regarding the reduction of SKKU’s Footbridge Scholarship. The Footbridge Scholarship is a system that was made in 2015 with the goal of offering support to students who are in the blind spots of SKKU’s scholarship system. Although SKKU offers a large range of scholarships, there are a considerable number of students who do not have the chance of receiving financial support when needed. The Footbridge Scholarship therefore established three different selection criteria to reduce such situations. The A Track selects students who suffer from a sudden drop in grades due to unexpected conditions such as family trouble or hospitalization. The B Track offers support to students who make acknowledgeable accomplishments that contribute to the school. Last but not least, the C Track supports students who earn a Grade Point Average (GPA) of higher than 4.0 but have not received any scholarship funding. The Footbridge Scholarship was much appreciated, but the C Track is now discontinued and the B Track’s selection criteria are altered in this semester in such a way that they are now much more difficult to meet. Moreover, this alteration is made and put into practice without any prior notice. Students are confused and frustrated with the sudden reduction since many were counting on the Footbridge Scholarship. Most of this confusion is due to insufficient communication among the students, the student council, and the SKKU administration.
SKKU’s student support team, that is in charge of the school’s scholarship system, explained that the Footbridge Scholarship had to be reduced for two reasons in particular. The first reason was the misuse of the Footbridge Scholarship on online SKKU communities. The support team learned that students were boasting about this scholarship and used the support for undesirable intentions. The second reason was because statistics showed that students who were selected for the C Track were not financially in need. Since the social trend of university scholarships is changing to support students in financial difficulties rather than students with outstanding academic achievement, SKKU’s student support team claims that SKKU feels the need to change its system accordingly. Even though the intention of this change was understandable, the problem is that SKKU did not seek the student’s opinion in any form. The student council, Sungkeum, claimed that there was no notification of any sort regarding this reduction. As it is supposed to consult with the student council if any change is to be made with respect to the scholarship program, the Footbridge Scholarship’s failure in cooperation with the student council would bring about controversial issues.
Establishment of the Stepping-Stone Scholarship
Reduction of the Footbridge Scholarship was ultimately carried out to establish the Stepping-Stone Scholarship, explained SKKU’s student support team. The Stepping-Stone Scholarship aims to provide living expenses to financially underprivileged students and grants \500,000 monthly to every student whose family’s income classification is class zero. Korea University started a similar scholarship last year named the Justice Scholarship by discontinuing every academic achievement scholarship and using that money to support students in need. After a year has passed, the Justice Scholarship became one of the most praised scholarship systems in Korea as it is thought to create a fair learning atmosphere to its university students. Through such scholarship programs students who cannot focus wholly on studying because of their financial issues can be given the chance to do so. That is why SKKU is trying to found the Stepping-Stone Schoarship. Along with the existing tuition scholarship for those in financial need, the Stepping-Stone Scholarship will help students to have an equal chance to study without worry. SKKU’s student support team declared that more support will be offered to needy students after a year of the Stepping-Stone Scholarship’s test operation.
Irrational Distribution of the Scholarship Budget
One of the ceaseless complaints of the Humanity Campus students at SKKU is that the school supports the Natural Science Campus students much more. Frequent protests regarding the scholarship budget have surfaced such concerns of the Humanity Campus students, but there is no detailed evidence since precise figures have not been made public. After gathering information regarding the distribution of SKKU’s scholarship budget, however, it became clear that the Natural Science Campus was receiving more support.
|SKKU’s Student Support Team, Financial Team, Strategic Planning and Promotion Team|
The average tuition per student of the Natural Science course was 1.18 times higher than the Humanity course, but the scholarship budget per student was higher by 1.38. The amount of tuition fee returned as scholarships was larger for Natural Science course students as well. Natural Science students had 25.997% of the total tuition fee returned as scholarships while Humanity students only had 22.220% returned. Considering that the scholarship budget for one semester is nearly \20 billion, this imbalance is enough to make the Humanity students discontent. Another major imbalance in SKKU’s scholarship system is one related to admission scholarships. Last semester, out of the total 8,690 students who received scholarships, 1,669 received admission scholarships. Although the number of students benefiting from admission scholarships is 19% of the total number of the recipients, the amount they receive constitutes 37% of the total budget. This is an issue to consider because admission scholarships grant total tuition-payments to students based on CSAT scores, which has little to do with making a fair learning environment at SKKU.
Statistics show that SKKU’s scholarship system is well managed, but there are still some areas where improvements are required. Conversations with the school and students should be held regularly to realize fair distribution of the budget and help students who are not yet in reach of SKKU’s scholarship system.
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