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Gov't urges schools, students to settle tuition refund row, reaffirms 'no cash support' stance

All Headlines 17:28 June 18, 2020

SEOUL, June 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's education ministry on Thursday urged universities and students to mutually resolve the latter's growing call for tuition refunds amid the new coronavirus pandemic.

"(The ministry) feels regretful that students cannot attend in-person classes due to the new coronavirus. (It) also sympathizes with universities whose budgets have been hit by quarantine measures, remote classes and a drop in the number of foreign students," a key ministry official told reporters in briefing.

"(But) the tuition issue is something that universities and students should solve through communication ... The ministry will do its best to provide reasonable alternatives to help resolve the difficulties of both sides."

The official reaffirmed the ministry's stance on not providing support in the form of cash payouts, adding that schools should also take measures of their own to improve the situation.

The ministry plans to receive documents from universities and review their financial status before providing support measures. It is expected to encourage schools to refund tuition by prioritizing support measures for schools that have chosen to do so.

Students at Yonsei University, located in the western Seoul ward of Seodaemun, hold a rally on campus on June 18, 2020, demanding the school to refund part of their tuition. (Yonhap)

The official's remark came as a growing number of students are asking universities to refund part of their tuition for what they claimed was a violation of their "right to learn" as schools shifted to remote learning amid the pandemic that has infected more than 12,000 here.

One student advocacy group is looking for participants for a class-action lawsuit seeking tuition refunds.

Students at Seoul-based Yonsei University held a press conference on Thursday, demanding the school partially refund tuition and "provide practical measures to compensate students who (suffered) a violation of their right to learn."

But most universities maintain that it is nearly impossible to cough up tuition, citing a rise in pandemic-related costs for setting up online classes and running disinfection and quarantine programs on campus.

In a rare case, Seoul-based Konkuk University has announced plans for a tuition cut in the fall semester.

mlee@yna.co.kr
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