Earlier this month, Sogang University announced it would abolish performance-based scholarships from 2018. Instead, it will be increasing funding for the need-based scholarships to support students in financial difficulty.
The same movement towards the expansion of need-based scholarships was intiated by Korea University last year. So far, these two major universities in Korea have abolished or reduced performancebased scholarships in efforts to increase their current need-based scholarships.
On announcing the move, President Yeom Jae-ho of Korea University stated that scholarships should not be used as incentives to improve or sustain students’ academic performance. Performance-based scholarships were abolished and allocated to the “Justice Scholarship.” This needbased scholarship provides lowincome students with full tuition fees and up to 500,000 won per month. It aims to support students who are otherwise obliged to take part-time jobs to cover their tuition and living expenses, detracting from their studies.
Sogang University announced its plan to abolish its performancebased scholarships on Sept. 1. It will redistribute funds previously set for performance-based scholarship to its need-based “Dasan Scholarship,” increasing the number of students provided with full scholarship from 12.6 percent to 18.2 percent.
The drastic changes have received mixed feedback from students.
“I was quite a shocked when I first heard about it,” said Lee-Ye-eun, a junior at Sogang University. “Even so, I think the reasoning behind their decision is valid. I have seen many students struggle to make ends meet and during that process, they are too exhausted to concentrate in class; it seems like a vicious cycle.” However, some students disapproved of universities’ scrapping of the performance-based scholarships.
“Their intentions were good, but it would have been better if there had been more discussion with students,” said Choi So-young, a sophomore at Korea University. “Performance-based scholarship was the only scholarship that students from all financial backgrounds were eligible for.”
Some schools are increasing need-based scholarships without abolishing performance-based scholarships entirely. In 2015, Ewha scrapped its “Excellence 2” scholarship which granted 500,000 won to all students with a 3.75 GPA or above. The funds were reallocated to other scholarships s u c h a s “Future Planning Scholarship,” which assists students’ career planning regardless of grades or financial status.
“In accordance with government policies and providing equal chances to all students, the Excellence 2 scholarship was abolished,” said the Ewha Scholarship Center. “As of now, there has been no discussions for further reduction of performancebased scholarships.”
In the same year, Hanyang University increased its need-based scholarship budget from 30 percent to 40 percent of all scholarships.
“It is fair for the schools to reduce performance-based scholarships,” said a student in Division of International Studies. “Students at Ewha are highly focused on their studies and with the decrease of enrolling students, the school is bound to face financial difficulties. However, there should have been communication between the school and students before the sudden notice.”
Students are also concerned about deficiencies in the current need-based scholarship system. Schools distribute awards on 10 tiers, categorized according to students and their parents’ income and wealth as recorded in the Social Security Information System. Each semester, students apply for national need-based scholarships and are assigned to tiers determined by the government. The scholarship amount differs according to the tiers; students in Tier 1 receiving 5,200,000 won per semester and those in Tier 10, 675,000 won.
However, the system h a s problems such as failing to record income from self-employment, meaning that some students in need were missed and others who were in eligible received awards.
“Performance-based scholarships were my only chance,” said a student at Sogang University. “Although it was difficult for me to pay the tuition fee, I was not eligible for the national need-based scholarship or the university’s need-based scholarship.”
Many students struggle to pay tuition but are deemed ineligible for need-based scholarships.
Although the abolition or reduction of performance-based scholarships is done with good intentions, loose ends such as deficiencies with the need-based scholarship selection process are yet to be addressed.