Whether or not students are entitled to a refund on tuition fees has been the center of attention ever since schools announced that lectures will be conducted online. According to All-Korean University Student Council Network, a network of general student councils from 32 universities within Korea, over 99 percent of the 21,784 students who participated in a survey voted that a refund of tuition fees is necessary. With the vast majority of surveyed students wishing for a reimbursement, the network decided to file a lawsuit against universities and the Ministry of Education. Various groups from Ewha are also engaging in the movement.
Among over 100 representatives of this movement, five are from Ewha. The 52nd General Student Council, 52nd Central Steering Commission of Student Representatives, and student councils from the Department of Elementary Education, College of Art & Design, and College of Music are part of the movement. The rest of the student councils of the school are participating in this lawsuit through the Central Steering Commission.
“I strongly support the lawsuit,” said a sophomore from the College of Music who wished to stay anonymous. “Not only are we unable to use school facilities, but there are many limitations to offline classes. It is harder to receive constructive feedback on our performance and we often have to rent halls to practice and hand in video assignments.”
A sophomore from the Department of Elementary Education who wished to stay anonymous also showed support for the lawsuit.
“Mandatory lectures needed for graduation were only open for students in their last semester so the classes I registered for were cancelled,” she commented. “Furthermore, the quality of lectures, which formerly focused on active debate, had also greatly diminished; I definitely think a partial refund of tuition fees is necessary.”
The lawsuit will be filed by MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society. Ewha Voice interviewed lawyer Ha Ju-hee, a member of MINBYUN, to consult on the legal basis of the procedure.
“Schools signed a contract with students to use the tuition fees received and provide appropriate services,” Ha explained. “University budgets typically include labor costs, facility fees, management and operation expenses, research expenses, equipment and material costs and more, so these are the things schools should provide students. When they fail to, students have a legal right to receive a reimbursement. We plan on making a claim based on this General Contract Law Principle.”
Ha stated that MINBYUN will demand at minimum of one-thirds of the tuition fees to be refunded. The money would go directly back to students who had participated in the lawsuit. Although Ha was hopeful about the results, she stated that continuous attention is crucial as there is no saying on how long this fight will persist.
Students sue universities to get refunds
The 52nd General Student Council expressed their staunch beliefs of receiving a tuition fee refund.
“Although the school created a special scholarship, students had to meet specific conditions to receive it,” the Council commented. “For example, they had to be in the bottom quintile or be able to prove their financial struggles. Students who could not, were not able to receive any scholarship. COVID-19 has violated the educational rights and financially burdened all students. The school and the Ministry of Education have a responsibility to provide a solution.”
This lawsuit was only one of many attempts to receive a refund. In April the 52nd General Student Council protested in front of the president’s office every day for one week until a committee was opened to review tuition fees. In this committee, the school rejected the student's requests to immediately disclose the tuition usage history but agreed to make it public during September. The general school council is adamant on their stance to continue their active engagement until students receive their rightful tuition refund.
“This lawsuit is supported by various surveys, investigations, campaigns, and more,” said the 52nd General Student Council. “We believe more students and other members of society will be further aware of this issue, and this will lead to positive changes and law enforcements.”
However, the school has a pessimistic view towards refunding tuition fees.
“The school is expected to see a huge decline in income due to many variables in the COVID-19 crisis,” said the school’s budgeting team.
The school has decided to share the budget execution status for the first half of the year around September.