Park Se-ho, a student majoring in communications at Sogang University, feels burdened by the university's plan to raise tuition by 3.34 percent.
"As I have relied on the state student loan program to pay my tuition fees, the announcement makes me feel uneasy," said Park. "Students here have felt bad as the increase was bigger than those of other universities and the announcement came abruptly without any consultation with the student council."
He said students have rallied by organizing a petition to show their objection to the increase.
Despite recent moves by more than 15 universities in Seoul to freeze tuition fees this year, some universities, including Yonsei and Hanyang, have decided to raise their fees.
Tuition fees at local public universities have increased by an average of 1.29 million won (S$1,500), or 44.5 percent, over the last five years, according to government data released yesterday.
According to the data from the Education Ministry on tuition fees collected by local universities between 2004 and 2009, fees at private universities increased by an average of 1.65 million won, a 28.6 percent increase from five years ago.
Average tuition fees at private and public universities last year were 7.42 million won and 4.19 million won, respectively. In 2004, tuition fees were 5.77 million won and 2.9 million won, respectively.
The rate of the tuition increase was higher than the inflation rate during the period.
The inflation rate was 3.6 percent in 2004, 2.8 percent in 2005, 2.2 percent in 2006, 2.5 percent in 2007 and 4.7 percent in 2008.
The rate of the tuition fee increase at private universities was 5.9 percent in 2004, 5.1 percent in 2005, 6.7 percent in 2006, 6.5 percent in 2007 and 6.7 percent in 2008. The rate at public universities was 9.4 percent in 2004, 7.3 percent in 2005, 9.9 percent in 2006, 10.3 percent in 2007 and 8.7 percent in 2008.
As local universities froze their tuition fees last year amid the deteriorating economy, the rate of the tuition fee increase last year at both private and public universities was 0.5 percent.
Over the past five years, tuition fees in medical and engineering departments increased by the largest amount, according to the data.
In 2004, the average tuition fee for medical departments at private universities was 7.8 million won, but it increased to 10.04 million won last year. The average tuition for engineering departments at private universities was 6.53 million won in 2004, but increased to 8.42 million won last year.
The average tuition fee for medical departments at public universities was 4.62 million won in 2004 and it increased to 6.76 million won last year. The average tuition fee for engineering departments at public universities was 3 million won in 2004, but increased to 4.41 million won last year.
According to a report released in September by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Korea has the second-highest college tuition fees after the United States.