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Thai University Students Continue Studying By Paying for Tuition Using Rice

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Rice, a basic commodity in some Asian countries, is now used to pay tuition fees in a certain private university in Thailand
Aiming to help farmers affected by the oversupply of grains in Thailand, a private university has launched a program that allows students to study using rice as payment for tuition.
(Photo : Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Addressing the growing problem regarding the oversupply of rice in its country, a private university in Thailand has started accepting a different means of payment for college education - rice.

Rangsit University, a private institution in Bangkok, has started to accept rice payments in lieu of cash in an effort to help balance the country's grain surplus, Bloomberg reported. So far, about 19 students have availed of this new scheme, which Fortune refers to as "Grains for Brains."

Witsanu Sukmoonsiri, a 22-year-old studying at the university's social innovation school, is one of the students who paid rice for his tuition. Witsanu plans to pay the 20,620 baht ($574) fee for the January-April semester using rice from his family's farm.

"My parents might have had to go to a loan shark otherwise," Witsanu said.

Thailand is currently facing an oversupply in its grains, which led to the depreciation of rice costs. In November Thai jasmine rice reached its lowest since February 2007, averaging 8,294 baht (about $230) per ton. Unmilled white rice, on the other hand, reached its weakest level since May 2014, according to Bloomberg.

Rangsit University, who wants to help ailing families affected by the surplus, will be putting the rice paid for tuition at a higher-than-market value, said Worachat Churdchomjan, a dean who helped set the rice-for-fees program.

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

Farmers affected by the oversupply look for ways to earn more from the trade. Some of them, like 25-year-old Suphatson Chanthamon, mill rice on their own and sell it in unlikely places such as a gas station kiosk.

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

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