Some students and members of the general public say the sudden hike is unfair and taking advantage of a minority group at the school. However, others say the school's tuition fees are kept artificially low through subsidies from taxpayers and it is improper to provide such a benefit to foreign students who do not pay taxes.
The university held a tuition review committee meeting June 11 and decided to raise the fees for international undergraduate and graduate students entering next year by 100 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
The University of Seoul, an affiliate of Seoul Metropolitan Government, introduced "half-price tuition" in 2012 under former Mayor Park Won-soon to relieve the financial burden on students and parents amid rows over high tuition costs at colleges here.
Since then the tuition for students in the humanities and social science department has remained at 1.02 million won ($906) per semester, regardless of a student's nationality, which is less than half of most of other universities in the country.
The number of foreign students at the University of Seoul was 580 as of 2020, according to a government website on higher education.
The school explained that the increase had been discussed for several years and was aimed at expanding support for international students.
"Beginning several years ago, we have conducted surveys on the necessary support and appropriate tuition fee levels for international students, and what other universities have been doing," an official from the university told The Korea Times.
"We tried to make the tuition for international students at the average level of other national and public universities. We plan to use the money raised to increase scholarships and provide more Korean classes for foreign students," the official said.
According to the minutes of the tuition review committee, the university conducted a survey in January and decided on more support for foreign students who were experiencing difficulty in school life, including writing papers and participating in lectures due to their weak Korean skills.
The school officials also said the 100 percent increase was to put the tuition on a par with that for undergraduates in the humanities and social sciences department at national and public universities nationwide.
However, critics within the university say that it is unreasonable to push such a sharp increase only for foreign students who cannot speak out to protest the decision.
Since it is practically impossible to raise the tuition fees for Korean students as the "half-priced tuition" is a symbol for the school, critics point out that the university is trying to resolve its financial problems by raising money from foreign students.
Some local and foreign students at the university placed a hand-written poster on the school's campus June 15 saying the school was increasing the tuition drastically by taking advantage of the fact that foreign freshmen would not be able to protest the decision.
One of the students, Yang Sun-kyung, said international students were having difficulties balancing work and studies at the same time just like Korean students.
"The Seoul Metropolitan Government should provide more financial support considering the purpose of introducing the half-price tuition system was so that students could focus on learning," Yang said.
"I think the university's administrative process is really wrong," a person wrote on "Everytime," an online community for university students. "I don't think they can just force foreign students to pay twice as much because they don't pay tax. Even though a tuition increase is necessary, the school should increase it gradually at a certain level, which everyone can understand," he said.
But some others support the university's decision, saying it is unfair for foreign students to pay the same tuition fees as Koreans.
"In many countries such as the United States and China, there is a difference in tuition between domestic and foreign students, especially in public or national universities, which are run by government funding or from taxes," one user wrote.
"I don't think students at the university know why their tuition is so cheap. All those benefits are subsidies from Seoul taxpayers' money. Would it sound reasonable for a Korean students to go abroad and ask for a subsidy for expensive tuition from the government of that country?" he said.
Omona, do international students in your country pay for more school? At my old college, nonresidents can pay up to double the tuition at some schools.
source: The Korea Times