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Universities struggle to fill classes amid population decline

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Graduates of Kookmin University throw their mortarboards into the air during the school's commencement ceremony in Seoul, Feb. 14.  Yonhap

Graduates of Kookmin University throw their mortarboards into the air during the school's commencement ceremony in Seoul, Feb. 14. Yonhap

By Lee Hae-rin

Universities in Korea are struggling to fill their classes as the number of first-year students matriculating to colleges this spring falls short of their intended class sizes amid the country's falling birthrate.

Jongno Hagwon, one of Korea's largest college preparation institutes, said in its analysis of Korean Council for University Education data that 169 schools in the country failed to fill their admission quotas by the registration deadline this year, falling short by 13,148 student enrollments in total.

Universities outside Seoul accounted for 88.2 percent of the total enrollment shortage, failing to fill 11,595 places.

Some of these universities failed to reach 50 percent of their enrollment goals, with one university only managing to fill 21.6 percent of its incoming class, the analysis showed.

The trend affected the so-called in-Seoul universities, referring to more prestigious schools in the capital that many students wish to attend for better employment opportunities and social recognition.

Among these schools, 31 failed to recruit a total of 618 first-year students this year, which accounts for 4.7 of the total enrollment shortfall.

Seokyeong University saw the most significant shortage, needing 111 students to meet its enrollment goal, followed by Sejong University with 53, Hansung University with 34, Hongik University with 31, Kookmin University with 29, Chung-Ang University with 19, Hankuk University of Foreign Languages with 18 and Hanyang University with 17 students.

Gyeonggi Province and Incheon also had 35 universities needing to recruit 935 more students, accounting for 7.1 percent of the total shortage.

Jeju Island was found to need the biggest number of additional students. Two of the island's universities are seeking an average of 226.5 additional students.

Meanwhile, Kangwon Tourism College, the only college in the eastern city of Taebaek, Gangwon Province, will close down at the end of this month due to a lack of students.

It is the second community college in the country to shut down after Daegu Future College, which closed six years ago for the same reason, and the 20th institution of higher education to close since 2000.

The school decided to close its doors 30 years after its founding, which the Ministry of Education approved earlier this month.

According to the Korean Educational Development Institute, the number of elementary, middle and high school students in the country will drop from this year's 5.2 million to 4.25 million in 2029 due to a plummeting birthrate.

Korea's birthrate hit a record low at 0.78 last year, and Statistics Korea estimates the figure will fall even further to 0.65 next year.

Lee Hae-rin


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