There has been much controversy about a policy whereby those who pursue careers outside the field of science and engineering after having benefited from the National Scholarship of Science and Engineering have to pay back every penny of the scholarship they have received or will receive during their time in school.. This policy became a hot potato in KAIST community last semester and accordingly a new committee called the Special Act on the Support of Science and Engineering Task Force was established under the student council in June. Since then, there have been surveys, group discussions, and conferences held to accommodate the opinions of KAIST students as much as possible. KAIST studetns are especially sensitive to this scholarship issue as almost every student at KAIST benefits from government-issued scholarships. Actually, these scholarships are one of the reasons many students choose KAIST as their choice of higher education.
The problem arose from the fact that there has been an increasing number of KAIST students who changed their field of study from science and engineering to other areas such as medical science or law. Hence, the Special Act on the Support of Science and Engineering Manpower for Strengthening National Science and Technology Competitiveness was amended back in June, 2011 to strengthen the national competence in science and technology by preventing students majoring in science and engineering from leaving their respective fields of study. It was then this policy of taking back all of the scholarship money from those who change their career paths and leave the field of science and engineering was newly added to the amendment. According to this new policy, the retrieval of scholarships applies to students who had received the scholarship for over two years starting from 2012. Students who change their fields will only get the scholarship for the first two years and will have to pay back the scholarship they receive during their junior and senior years.
In response to this imminent change, the Special Act on the Support of Science and Engineering Task Force in KAIST was founded to resolve the issue. Its role is to systematically and thoroughly counter the proposed bill on behalf of the KAIST students. This task force plans to focus more on issuing surveys and gathering more opinions from KAIST students. Furthermore, they will be promoting case studies about other kinds of scholarships funded by the government analyzing the differences between those scholarships and the National Scholarship of Science and Engineering.
It is still unclear whether KAIST students who have changed their career paths since 2012 will actually have to pay back all the scholarships upon graduation. This policy is still very controversial and many KAIST students are fighting against the law. However, we also need to keep in mind that there are disputes and disagreements about this issue even inside the KAIST community, so we can never know how it will turn out. There are still ongoing efforts nullify this policy within many different communities even outside KAIST, with some of these efforts including petitions to the Constitutional Court.