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Housing Shortages: Where Can College Students Go?

The nearest dormitory to Seoul campus of SKKU is the K-house, and it is also known for being the toughest dormitory to enter. Only female students are accepted in this building, and to be qualified to apply, Kingos must have an average grade of 4.2 or higher. The competition is fierce, because there are 19,798 students enrolled in SKKU, while only 5,371 rooms are available in the dormitories. Housing shortages are not a problem only at SKKU but are a problem that all universities face. Only an average of 22.2% of students is accepted into dorms. This is why students who live far away from school are given no choice but to live by themselves away from home. However, finding a place to live can be just as difficult as getting into a dorm. Therefore, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) decided to discuss the problem, what is causing it to increase continuously and possible improvements.

Problems in Regards to the Shortage of Housing

Low Dormitory Acceptance Rates

Dormitories are facilities that provide college students with a place to stay at a low cost. It is especially needed by students who live far from the schools they attend. Universities are obliged to build adequate dormitories and provide boarding facilities at a low cost to ensure the convenience of students. Since most university students still rely on their parents financially, they prefer to live in dormitories because they are usually cheaper and safer. In December of last year, the National Assembly Research Service (NARS) issued an analysis report regarding the Status of University Dormitories and Task for Expanding the Construction of Dormitories. According to the report, university dormitories are favored by many university students. However, acceptance rates are generally low, which leads to high competition. The acceptance rate of national and public universities is 26.5%, while that of private universities is 20.8%. Yonsei University topped the list with a dormitory acceptance rate of 35.2% as of 2019, followed by SKKU with 21.7%, and Seoul National University with 21.6%. There are even universities located in Seoul with a dormitory acceptance rate lower than 10%. Hence, this is why students from other provinces constantly speak out on how hard it is to get accepted into school dormitories. In the case of SKKU, the criteria they look at in selecting students is not based on how far they live from the school, but rather the quality of their grades. This causes a problem because if a student who lives four hours away from school has a grade of 3.9 and a student who lives an hour away has a grade of 4.0, the student with 4.0 will be admitted to the dormitory.

High Rent And Poor Quality of Environment

The Street Where the Crime Happened (busan.com)

Students who fail to be accepted into dormitories have no choice but to live by themselves by renting a room. The expense of renting a room is more expensive than living in a dormitory, and this causes an increase in the students’ financial burden. In August 2019, Dabang, a real estate application, released a report stating monthly rental prices for one-room apartments near major universities in Seoul have an average monthly rent of 510,000 won. In fact, as of May 2020, the average rent for a one-room apartment near Hongik University Station on Line 2 includes a 5 million won deposit and 510,000 won for monthly rent. Still, for a room with tighter security, it is a 5 million won deposit and 680,000 won for monthly rent. Therefore, one has to pay 170,000 won more per month to live in a place with better security, which is equivalent to paying 2,040,000 won more per year. This is why many students choose to live in one room apartments because they cannot afford otherwise. During the process of looking for cheaper rooms, many end up in areas with a poor quality environment. While prices do drop further rooms are far from the subway stations and the main streets, in those areas, there are usually not enough surveillance cameras that help keep the area safe. Since the security is not sufficient, crimes involving one-room apartments are steadily occurring. In 2018, there was a man in his 30s caught trespassing in one-room apartments near a women’s university. He was caught trespassing a total of nine times in just one month. He was able to commit such crimes because there were areas that were not protected by surveillance cameras.

What Continuously Increases Difficulties?

Difficulties in Constructing New Dormitories

No to New Dormitories (m.medigatenews.com)

Back in 2017, President Moon Jae-in, upon his election, announced the construction of enough college dormitories that could admit an additional 50,000 students. However, local rental companies were strongly opposed because it would cause significant economic damage to them. The number of people who start in the rental business after their retirement continues to increase, and those renting near universities earn money by renting their rooms to university students. According to the Bank of Korea's 2017 Financial Stability Report, the number of households aged 60 or older renting homes on monthly rent increased 54 percent from 277,000 in 2012 to 427,000 in 2016. Additionally, some residents view college dormitories negatively and go as far as thinking it will worsen their living standards. This is because if a university dormitory is constructed and a huge number of students suddenly move in, they can potentially cause noise, disturbances, or alcohol-related problems. If this problem is not resolved, the construction of new dormitories will continue to face difficulties.

A Surge of Demand Near Universities

Typically, it may be thought that rents near universities are cheap because they are targeted to young adults, who are new to society, but it is quite the opposite. The low rate of dormitory acceptance and expensive house rents are what cause university students to have difficulty in finding a place to stay. According to a survey conducted in May 2020 by Dabang, the average rent of a one-room apartment near Hyehwa station, where SKKU’s Seoul campus is, is a deposit of 10 million won and a monthly rent of 460,000 won. However, by Suyu station, where there is no nearby university, the average rent of a one-room apartment is a deposit of 5 million won and a monthly rent of 400,000 won. Overall, monthly rent is expensive, but the monthly rent of university districts is significantly more costly. Especially in comparison to dormitories, it is more expensive, because for example, in 2019, the dormitory rent for SKKU for one semester was 1,450,000 won, which is approximately 362,500 won per month. Additionally, according to Kang Kyu-ho, head of the Data Analysis Center of Station 3's Dabang, “The one-room market shows a rise in monthly rent during the summer and winter seasons when the demand for college students and beginners in society is high”.

The Surge of Demands (insight.co.kr)

Possible Future Improvements

Creating Policies That Would Help Students in Finding a House

Currently, there are policies implemented to help solve the housing problems of young adults ranging from their 20s to 30s. In those policies, however, it is rare for university students to get benefits. This is why it is necessary to create a policy that mainly focuses on university students. This is because, besides college tuition, living expenses are also important for students to continue studying. Especially since housing expenses take up a large portion of the student’s living expenses, it is necessary to establish a scholarship system that supports students’ living expenses along with their tuition.

To Establish a School Program

Ironically, the university districts, whose houses are mainly full of university students, who are not fully financially independent, have extremely high rents. Also, some real estate agents take advantage of the naivetés of fresh high school graduates. To prevent this kind of situation, schools should take action to help and teach the students regarding their lack of prior knowledge in regards to real estate. Also, it would be nice to have a mentor-mentee program, where the mentor helps the mentee with their housing contract.

Cooperation with the Rental Business

Cooperating with rental business people could create a win-win situation. Instead of constructing a new dormitory, they could adapt the jeonse rental housing system. Jeonse is a Korean real estate term that refers to a two-year housing contract. The housing system is done by making a contract with the landlord first, and then the landlord re-rents it to the student. In this way, students can live near the school while the rental business people can also continuously earn money from it. An example would be the LH Rental Housing System for College Students. Students whose houses are far from the university are qualified to apply. However, the chances are slim because there are not many rooms. This is why the system should be more widely applied so that more students will be able to enter.

Many students’ financial status is not that high, which is why they get support from their parents. However, even with their help, the financial burden is still quite high. Therefore, the government should make amendments to solve this problem. Helping these young adults find their place in society is one of the main responsibilities of the country.

최진영  rosaleen21c@gmail.com

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