Devaluaed currency causes tuition woes

The economic crisis that hit Asian countries may impact the education of Asian students in America. Some Korean students at GW may be forced to re-evaluate their means of tuition financing as the value of Korea’s currency drops.

Six months ago, 800 Korean wons were worth one American dollar. But the Asian economic crisis has devalued the won to about 1,800 per dollar now.

It would have cost a Korean student 1.6 million wons to pay the $20,245 undergraduate tuition six months ago. Now students, supported by their families or sponsored by a corporation, would need to pay the equivalent of 3.6 million wons a year.

While the families or corporations may be sending the same amount of wons, converted into dollars, the buying power of that money has gone down by more than half.

“Tuition is very high . living expenses are very high also,” said Howon Suh, a computer science doctoral candidate. “We must try to minimize our spending.”

He said married graduate students must consider sending their families back to Korea because of financial constraints.

“The (financial) situation is not so good for me,” a Korean MBA student said. “But for me it is not as serious because this is my last semester. I will probably stay here . I have no choice.”

“Most people can not continue to study here,” Korean Student Association President Sunj Ahun Ha said. “The Korean currency has declined . if it increases, then we can pay the tuition.”

KSA is in the process of compiling a special financial assistance proposition for affected students to present to the administration. The proposal aims to make students eligible for loans and possible discounts, or simply buy the students some time, Ha said.

The School of Business and Public Management has offered students a deferment until March 1, with a $1000 deposit due last week, he added.

Professor Eom Kie Bum, a Korean faculty member who teaches computer vision at GW, said the number of Korean students at GW may decline by about half.

Of the half that remains, Bum explained that Korean students studying in the United States often belong to privileged families who can withstand such devaluations. And he said he believes many families and students will endure short-term hardships so they do not sacrifice education, which is highly valued in Korean culture.

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