Thai University Is Letting Students Pay For College With Rice

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"My parents might have had to go to a loan shark otherwise. I have to cook and sell food to earn extra money. Rice prices are so low," said Witsanu Sukmoonsiri.

Rice paddies, farm students

As rice prices in Thailand plummet due to overproduction, causing harm to farmers' salaries, one private university is allowing farm students to cover the cost of tuition by means of the rice itself, Bloomberg reports.

Thailand is Southeast Asia's second-largest economy, and it exports about half of the region's annual rice output. That's expected to increase through September 2017. The current rice hardship is so great, farmers are marketing their rice on Facebook and at gas stations.

Suphatson Chanthamon, 25, is a northeast Thai farmer attempting to sell her rice at gas stations. 

"At current prices, if we sell to rice mills, we wouldn’t get money to cover production costs, but selling directly to buyers, we could have small profits," she said. "For sure, we won't be losing money."

If it weren't for the rice-for-fees program at Rangsit University near Bangkok, social innovation student Witsanu Sukmoonsiri, 22, said his family might have needed to take drastic measures. 

"My parents might have had to go to a loan shark otherwise," said Sukmoonsiri, who is one of 19 students participating. "I have to cook and sell food to earn extra money. Rice prices are so low." 

Although agriculture makes up about 8 percent of Thailand's economy, about 25 percent of Thai people work in the industry. Altogether, 16 million Thais rely on rice farming for income. 

Rangsit University understands the importance of the field (literally), thus rolling out the program for students in need for next semester. 

"The university has a policy to support farmers to reduce their expenses, as they are the backbone of the country," Dean Worachat Churdchomjan said.

The accommodation is impressive to say the least; in terms of education, Thailand is making strides in the right direction. 

Banner image credit: Flickr, Ruocaled

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