Have you ever heard of Slug? It is defined as a homeless snail. Snails have shells but slugs do not. And these days it has another meaning. It is “homeless university students.” Home is one of the three conditions that is necessary to human life—food, shelter, clothing. However, many university students are wandering around the university district to get a place to live in, as they move from another region or the university is simply too far from their home. If they can’t get into a university dormitory, they need to find a place of residence. As such, those who stamp their feet in desperation to get a space of their own--they are called a slug generation.
University Slugs in need of a house to live in rather than to buy.
The average monthly rent fee for college students is 400,000 to 500,000 won and the cost of monthly living can go over 700,000 to 800,000 won due to the additional cost of maintenance and living expenses. It is a preposterous amount to afford by running one or two part time jobs, hence students complain, ‘I can’t rent a room because I have to work a loooooot to pay for it.’ Suffering such a financial burden of tuition and the cost of living, students cannot even be sure whether they enter university to study or to work.
The twenty-something in Korea is called the “give-up three” generation as they have to abandon the ideas of ‘employment, date, and marriage.’ The most fundamental reason why they have to abandon those three is the economic burden. They spend tens of millions of won for university tuition and what they cannot forget is the rental fee that comes along as if it is the supplemental material to the tuition. As a result, ‘employment, date, and marriage’ cannot but be a difficult issue, as it is a burden enough to pay back interest on education loan each month.
In accordance with the current Housing Act provision 5.2, ‘the minimum standard established to let people live comfortably’ for a personal space is 14㎡(4.2 pyeong)’
According to the survey of the YMCA, however, more than half of university students (52%) live in a smaller space than the standard. Those who reside in a rented room actually occupy a space smaller than 3 pyeong, such as rooms at Gosiwons, semi-basements, and rooftop houses, where it is often the case that they share toilets, shower rooms and kitchen facilities. The average university student pays 435,000 won a month for their rent and the overall cost of living is estimated 967,000 won, rent fee included. That is, their average housing expenses corresponding to 45% of the cost of living. It is surveyed that among those who move out from home for college, 47.9% live in a monthly rental. Apart from dormitory residents (16%), 84% of the respondents are in the private rental housing market.
What is the cause?
The biggest problem is the low acceptance rate of university dormitories. Students are anxious to get in a dormitory---as it is an inexpensive and stable choice. According to the data of Higher Education IN KOREA, the acceptance rate of dormitories for four year universities in Seoul is 11.8% on average, which means only one out of ten students can enter the dormitory. The highest acceptance rate is 21.6% at Sungkyunkwan University, and it is reported that only three universities in Seoul--- Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul National University, and Kyung Hee University----accepted more than 20% of all the applicants in 2012. On the other hand, single-digit acceptance rates are not uncommon, too. 11 out of a total of 17 universities show rates under 10%. The acceptance rate of private university dorms is reported as 17%, which is a very small number especially when it includes medical college dorms, foreign students’ dorms, and private dorms. The rate of average students to get in a dorm does not make 10%.
Is a private dormitory the answer?
Recently, universities in Seoul area have begun building private dormitories. A private dormitory is a dorm invested in by a private company, so it is owned by a university but is managed by the company. The investing company has the right to operate the dorm for a certain period of time and receives fees. As universities with insufficient funding begin to realize a private dormitory is the answer to build a massive size dormitory with quality facilities, private dormitory is increasing significantly.
Since the revision of the act, ‘Private Investment in Social Infrastructure’ in 2005, Chonbuk National University and Busan National University were the first to build private dormitories and now 51 universities (31 national universities and 19 private universities) operate a private dormitory. However, the cost of construction and operation of the dormitory is passed on in the dormitory fee. The dormitory fee at Korea University is 1,540,000 won per semester but the fee for a private dorm ‘Frontier’ is 2,340,000 won with an additional 800,000 won. The fee for SK International Baccalaureate at Yonsei University is 2,490,000 won, the Residence Hall at Soongsil University 1,890,000 won, and Namsan Baccalaureate at Dongguk University 1,400,000 won. Fees for private dormitories per semester come close to tuition fees, and it is two to three times more expensive than living in a shared rented one-room with your mate (250,000 won per person) near the university. The expensive fee makes it hard to consider a private dorm as a solution to the university housing shortage.
House Lease for University Students?
House Lease for University Students is a policy promoted by the Korea Land & Housing Corporation (LH), and though it has attracted a great deal of interest in its initial stage, now it is almost neglected by students. For House Lease, students have to hunt for a house first then contact LH; LH makes a contract with the landlord and subleases the house at an affordable price to students. The Government supports the security deposit of up to 70 million won per household and receives 2~3% interest from the students. However, the qualification for a house lease is quite difficult to meet and the chance to get supported is very limited. As a result, there is almost no benefit to students. In addition, the regulation of deposit funding up to 70 million won has created a problem---fees for house leases in university areas have increased over 70 million for no reason.
Even if a student finally wins the chance to be supported by the house lease policy, things are not as smooth and convenient as they have expected. Most housing in university areas is rented monthly, so finding a house for a yearly lease is not easy. Furthermore, recently-built studios in university areas usually do not meet the requirements for House Lease, because they are categorized as neighborhood establishments not houses. Also, landlords are reluctant to reveal the tax despite the mandatory regulation to submit tax information to LH. They often shun off from the complicated process of a house lease as they have no problem finding other tenants. Real estate agents slam the door in the face of LH supported students, and landlords do not welcome students when they mention LH. As a result, though 9,000 students won the chance to be supported by LH, only 2,880 succeeded to make a real contract.
What is the solution?
First, the government should go forward to solve the housing problem, preventing price fixing among landlords and aggressively support solutions for housing problems nationwide. Beyond the policy of house leases for college students, other alternative public services should be considered to accommodate more students. What is needed is innovative and practical solutions. The expansion of public work projects may provide workable solutions.
Second, each university should increase the acceptance rate of their dormitories. Leaving home, students should be able to focus on studying and universities should create such an environment for them by providing on-campus housing. If they have problems with studying due to financial difficulties, that is a serious obstacle that needs to be overcome, not in personal terms but in terms of university policy. The Government also has to support the construction of more university dormitories.
Third, we may consider a cooperative union, which can function for the sake of consumers. University students as consumer and tenants are clearly the weaker side in the housing market, having no choice but to pay the high cost decided by landlords. Forming a cooperative union for university housing, they can voice their concerns together to go forward to a win-win situation.
Universities used to be referred to as “the halls of study,” but how about Korean university life now? Parents work their tails off but student’s debts do not stop growing; tuition fees, living expenses, and housing fees. How can we cultivate and hone our competence to lead the future of Korea? The Government and universities have to provide plans for those young students who wander around the district to find their shelter. Students deserve to be supported and nurtured for their college lives, so that they can be ready for the world without any economic worries. < Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >