Ewha RightNow Association is a solidarity group determined to solve problems that university students face. At a press conference on Oct. 26, the group demanded reduction and refund of tuition fees at the main gate of Ewha.
Taking part in Ewha RightNow Association are seven of Ewha’s student associations: RightNow, EcoAction, 2030 Hada, Ewha Byunnal, EwhaNabi, Ewha Live Library, and Laborock. At the press conference, these groups gathered to demand that the school and presidential candidates take action on sexual discrimination in job opportunities, low rates of employment, and high tuition costs.
Ewha RightNow Association conducted a survey in September and realized more than half of the respondents were demanding partial return of tuition costs. Chang Eun-ah, a junior majoring in Chinese language and literature and the director of Ewha RightNow Association, set tuition refunds as the top priority among other agendas.
The average annual tuition fee at Ewha last year was approximately 8.7 million won, which was the second highest among universities in South Korea. The school has been charging full tuition for the last two years despite the fact that lectures have been provided online and the use of on-campus facilities has been limited due to COVID-19.
At the press conference, detailed demands to lower or refund tuition fees were delivered to Ewha’s president, but Ewha RightNow Association did not receive a response. According to Chang, the school already announced that it is not planning on tuition refunds. This was because results from online course evaluations showed higher student satisfaction with online lectures compared to those on-campus.
Nevertheless, Chang has met more than 1,400 students who have found online lectures disappointing.
“School lounges are all closed, practice sessions are conducted virtually, some professors reuse lectures from last year, and none of my lectures were live this semester,” one speaker said in the press conference. “Then why do we have to pay the same tuition fees as before?”
Chang appealed to the school faculty involved in tuition policy to reflect student demands. Students in the College of Natural Sciences, Music, Art & Design, and ELTEC College of Engineering have been required to take courses including experiments and live practices. Yet Chang found that the quality of relevant facilities was in bad quality because labs have fallen into disuse and practice rooms have been shut down due to COVID-19.
“I insist that the school meet the demands of students and institute a 40 percent refund of tuition costs,” Chang said. “Through this act of demanding tuition refunds, I hope that the importance of students in universities can be properly acknowledged by the school.”
Lee Hye-in, a sophomore in the Department of Library & Information Science, is a member of Ewha RightNow Association. Lee has been engaging in the association because of her interest in social issues including student rights.
Lee explained that Ewha RightNow Association is not the first one requesting refunds because of COVID-19, and that it is time the school listen to students’ demands properly.
“Tuition fees are something directly related to students’ lives,” Lee said. “Although significant changes were made to the curriculum and to available facilities at Ewha, the school is not making any change to the tuition. We do not know where our money is used. It is our right to know how our tuitions are used, and the school must start listening to the voices of students.”
In order to take further actions to lobby for tuition fee refunds, Ewha RightNow Association has decided to partake in the national student march on tuition fee reduction that is scheduled on Nov. 14 in Sinchon.