20% of Korean College Grads Earn Less Than High School Grads

Article from E-Daily:

Is it worth it to pay a hefty amount of tuition for four years to attend university? Perhaps not. A recent study by a state-run think tank shows that the bottom 20 percent of those with bachelor degrees earn less on average than workers who graduated from high school. This raises the question of the effectiveness of a college education in a nation where college-educated people, according to 2010 statistics, make up a whopping 60 percent of the entire working population.

Bottom 20 Percent of University Graduates Earn Less Than High School Graduates

The bottom 20 percent of university graduates earn less than those who graduated from high schools, a study shows, highlighting the necessity of shifting the focus of ongoing government efforts from revamping universities to weeding out under-performing ones.

Two out of ten graduates from a four-year college, and one of two graduates from a two-year college earn less than high school graduates.

Two out of ten graduates from a four-year college, and one of two graduates from a two-year college earn less than high school graduates.

In a study released on Oct. 21st by the Korea Development Institute (KDI) titled, “Does Korea Have the Greatest Human Capital in the World? : Analyzing the Formation of the Education Bubble and Labor Market,” the top 10 percent of graduates from four-year universities see their wage premium steadily increase while for the bottom 20 percent, it has seen a downturn starting in the mid-1990s.

Around that time, the bottom 50 percent of two-year college graduates also saw a decrease in their wage premium.

Since the mid-1990s, wage differences between university and high school graduates have decreased, creating a reversal: Among workers with bachelor degrees aged 34 or younger, 23 percent earn the same average wage as those with high school diplomas. In 1980 the proportion was just three percent.

KDI researcher Lee Joo-ho said, “In the present system where universities are ranked vertically, students who enter poor-performing universities fail to earn wages post graduation in proportion to the tuition fees they paid. This means increased investment in education and rising number of university diplomas have adverse effects on the buildup of human capital.”

As the key to tackling this problem, the think tank report suggests improved educational quality in tertiary schools by facilitating the realignment of universities. To that end, the report makes policy recommendations: (1) disposing of low-grade universities; (2) encouraging universities to develop specializations in targeted fields; (3) increasing global competitiveness of universities with primary focus on research.

The report warns against the regulatory policy of cutting student quotas for all universities which have differences in educational levels as this will not remove under-performing universities–a result running counter to the desired goal in the overhaul.

Mr. Lee said, “The government should focus of its university overhaul efforts on driving out under-performing universities, which are the main culprit of education bubble,” emphasizing it is urgent to establish a mechanism to crowd out such poorly performing universities.

“The Ministry of Education should remain adamant in holding onto principles with regards to choosing universities for expulsion.” He added, “With those principles in place, the ministry should continuously improve its university appraisal mechanism by inviting professors and managers from renowned overseas universities as evaluation panelists, along with amending relevant laws.

Comments from Daum:


If they are in the bottom 20%, then they didn’t graduate from college…

khmk****[Responding to above]:

Fools, they’re talking as if they’re not included in the 20%. keke If we’re looking at wage standards, there are a lot of people who are supposed to earn just as much keke


College graduates learned something so they can find a job. High school graduates will try any job they can get no matter if there’s overtime or late night shifts. So how would you end up with the same level of wages?


I think that to fix this, everyone from the social climate that says you absolutely must attend university, to the companies and citizens’ mindset shouldchange along with the government’s policy preparations.


Then should college graduates all be making more than high school graduates? I don’t think so…


This kind of article is a piece of crap. It’s an article pushing people to attend college. Next time they’ll publish an article criticizing the high university entrance rate in Korea. Do you deserve to make a ton if you graduate from a four-year university?


There are so many universities. We have to reduce the number.


I hope we get ride of those universities where as long as you apply, you can get in, and are attended by students who were in the 10 or 20% in high school. They inflate some numbers related to degrees, but on the inside, it rots.


There are a lot of high school graduates who are smarter than college graduates.


You can’t lump all four-year universities together.


Would you even blame the country for graduating from a shitty university? keke


Take a look at Hyundai Heavy Industry. High school graduates who work in a technical area earn high wages. A labor union leader who graduated from high school also has a pretty good chance of getting the same salary as the head of the department who graduated from college.


It’s a good phenomenon. Your earnings are based on your ability. Don’t use your educational background as an excuse.

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  • KCdude

    And not to mention there is a lot of middle school and secondary school kids who just refuse to go to school and its growing by the number. I work for the private education sector as a developer and I keep hearing that the public schools are staying more idle than never before.

    I once talked to a public school principal during a conference meeting and I was shocked that the conditions are getting worse for anyone working in public schools. So, that’s unfortunate.

  • 금정산

    Who are the bottom 20%?

    The graduates with the lowest GPA?
    Graduates from the lowest ranked universities?
    Or is it considering the 20% of graduates with the lowest wages?

    • Chucky3176

      Probably graduates that don’t have math/science/engineering/medical backgrounds. Graduates who hold law degrees, humanities, language, and even business to a certain degree.

      I hope this is a wake up call for Koreans that holding a piece of paper is worthless unless you have valuable skills that are desired by those who hire. I think is the same in any country.

      • jonny

        law degrees?

  • 금정산

    (4) Move on from the outdated Confucian belief that a day of exams should decide your future and that university is everything.

  • Eric0912

    As if attending university was only about “making more money”! Very sad perspective on education.

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