Universities and colleges in the provinces are trying to recruit older students to make up for their chronic shortage of freshmen and avoid being shut down entirely.At vocational colleges, the number of older students increased 66 percent from 19,700 in 2016 to 32,700 last year.According to the Korean Council for University College Education, 163,000 students started vocational college last year and 20 percent were over 25, up from 9.5 percent in 2016.Colleges offer evening and weekend classes for their older students, most of whom are employed or retired and looking for new jobs.One staffer said, "Nowadays foreign students tend to shun vocational colleges or provincial universities and prefer to go to universities that have a QS ranking, so more colleges are opening classes for older students."
Even private provincial universities are jumping on the bandwagon. Catholic Kwandong University in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, set up a dedicated program for older students in 2019 and has been admitting 120 of them a year.Dongguk University in Seoul created a similar course six years ago and plans to boost the quota in 2024. According to the Korean Council for University Education, the admissions quota for older students at universities tripled from 2019 to 2,589 in 2024.Park Sung-ha at the Education Ministry said, "We plan to support universities in each region to help them serve as lifelong learning centers for retirees looking for new jobs and to deal with the impact of a declining population." The ministry began supporting such efforts in 2019 and gives W780 million on average to 30 universities and colleges ever year (US$1=W1,304). Starting this year, the ministry raised the number of beneficiary universities to 50 and boosted the amount to W1 billion.