ON-CAMPUS jobs are an attractive option to consider for university students who are busy with schoolwork yet eager to earn pocket money. These jobs are especially convenient for students not only because the work sites are close to lecture halls, but also because the pay is generally above minimum wage. However, students have voiced concerns regarding the partiality of the recruitment process. That is, a substantial number of students get on-campus jobs through connections and informal recruitments.
What are Student Employee Scholarships criticized for?
Student employee scholarships (geun ro jang hak keum) refer to scholarships distributed in the form of wages of on-campus jobs. At Yonsei University, students must complete 120 hours of work in order to get paid. During an interview with The Yonsei Annals, the Yonsei Scholarship-Employment Team claimed that the system was primarily devised to provide a wide range of students with pocket money. As the existing scholarship system allowed the school to provide scholarships only to a limited number of students, universities started opening jobs for students in the form of scholarships to provide financial aid for a larger number.
There are two types of student employee scholarships: national and on-campus. National student employee scholarships are funded by the Korea Student Aid Foundation (KOSAF) and students can either work on-campus or at a facility associated with the school outside of campus. Candidates are recruited in a systematic manner, under strict regulations. According to the recruitment notice posted by the Yonsei Scholarship-Employment Center regarding national student employee scholarships for fall semester, only students with an income division* within level 1~8 are eligible to apply for a job.
Moreover, the scholarship administration notifies working hours at the prospective workplaces and the number of students that the school proposes to recruit (approximately 600 students as of fall 2017). Students are expected to work a maximum of 130 hours per semester within or outside school. In case of on-campus jobs, the hourly wage is \8,000 and for jobs off campus, \9,000. For recruitment, students must first apply through e-mail and then interview with the Scholarship-Employment Center. Students are paid in advance within the first ten days of the following month after they get recruited.
On the other hand, the on-campus student employee scholarship system is criticized as unfair by students, as its recruiting process is much less systematic and more informal. Some on-campus workplaces post recruitment announcements on a regular basis on their websites. For instance, the Central Library and Yonsei Co-op for Students (Saeng-hyup), which were formerly classified as on-campus student scholarships and now classified as national, post recruitment announcements on their websites at a regular basis. Nonetheless, other employers tend to recruit students through former student employees or exclusively recruit students with work experience. These recruitments often are held informally, for instance, through Kakaotalk Group chats, private phone calls, or through Facebook posts.
However, former student employees at respective workplaces have voiced concerns on the integrity of the recruitment system, stating that not all students are recruited through a fair system. While interviewing a number of students with on-campus labor experience, the Annals came across a number of students who have gotten their jobs through connections.
Kim (A), a former student employee at the Central Library, confessed that he had been recommended to work for the Central Library by a friend. After he completed 120 hours of work and received his payment, Kim was again contacted by the administrative office of the Central Library. The office asked if he could work for another semester.
Kim declined its request because he knew in advance that he would be unable to work for another full 120 hours during the semester. The payment system follows the rule that if the student employees cannot complete 120 hours of work, they are unable to receive any payment. Kim remarked that while he did accept his friend’s recommendation for the job, he nevertheless found the recruitment process unfair, since it excludes students without connections from getting a job. Without his friend or similar connections, there would have been lower chances of Kim getting the job at the Central Library as easily as he has done. However, having an associate who can offer a job recommendation is not always the case, and for students who do not have the respective connections, the search for a job becomes extra difficult since students with connections have already taken the jobs.
Kim (B), currently working for the administrative office, also claimed that he got the job through a senior student. His senior had recommended Kim to the office and Kim could immediately start working for it.
However, these examples are by no means exceptional. In fact, in many Kakaotalk chatting groups and Facebook groups within Yonsei, students frequently upload recruitment posts either on behalf of the employer or in search of someone who would take over their jobs after they are done.
The Yonsei Scholarship-Employment Center opens up—
Recent talks on changing the student employee scholarship system
The Yonsei Scholarship-Employment Center acknowledged the fact that such cases occur frequently. However, unlike the national system, which is directed by the center, employers for on-campus Student Employment Scholarships mostly recruit the employees on their own. In other words, the center is not responsible for tracking informal cases of recruitment for on-campus student employment scholarship vacancies, and is thus unable to set strict regulations.
The center claimed that some jobs require specific experiences or certificates. Hence, the employers have to be more specific and restrictive when they recruit student employees. This means that they can only choose to recruit students through informal measures. This, they claim, is a more efficient and easier method of finding suitable employees.
However, aware of its limitations, the center is expecting an update in the university’s Student Employment Scholarship system. The Korean Student Aid Foundation plans to expand its expenditure for student aid and the national student employee scholarship system. Thus, universities have received more funding to increase the number of job vacancies for National Student Employee Scholarships.
According to the center, upon fall 2017, 600 jobs have been open for National Student Employee Scholarships. This is substantial, compared to past statistics. In contrary, job vacancies for on-campus student employee scholarships will decrease, as they will be substituted by national student employee scholarships.
Funded by the Korean Student Aid Foundation (KOSAF), the center is working on appropriating more jobs. Currently, jobs offered at the Central Library, administrative offices, student helpers for disabled students, and many more are classified under the National Student Employee Scholarship system. Jobs outside of campus include those offered at Start-up businesses within the Start-up Support Center of Yonsei, the post office, Severance Hospital, and many other more. In total, there are around 70 workplaces that offer national student employee scholarships.
There are, however, still voices of concern. Since the newly adopted system strictly limits its prospective employees to students with an income division within level 1~8 and with a South Korean citizenship, students taking a leave, foreign students, and students who belong to income level 9 or above are ineligible. However, the center commented that there still will be job vacancies for on-campus national scholarships that have their own selection systems. Thus, students who do not meet the criteria for national student employee scholarships can apply for jobs offered by the on-campus system.
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Nonetheless, this problem is not exclusive to Yonsei. Recent articles published by the student press of Korea University, Seoul National University, and many other universities regarding student employee scholarships address the same problem. Although it is fortunate that the system will change in order to recruit students through a more impartial and systematic process, it is rather hasty to suggest that it will alleviate all problems.
Issues and concerns surrounding scholarships are of sensitive matter because for some students, the possibility of continuing on their education may solely depend on the availability of a scholarship. As much as on-campus jobs are referred as student employee scholarships, the recruitment process through which students are selected must be open to all students regardless of their social connections, and follow a set of regulations that secures fairness.
*Income division: Income divisions, a literal translation of so-deuk-bun-wi refers to the levels students are divided into by their financial backgrounds. The system has ten levels, with level 1 being the lowest income level to 10 being the highest.