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Editorial: Free education program means universities must continue to improve education

  • September 22, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 7:55 p.m.
  • English Press

Higher education institutions are required to take necessary measures bearing in mind the purpose of the program: guaranteeing opportunities for motivated and capable young people irrespective of their household economic situation.


With the free higher education program starting in spring next year, educational institutions to which the system applies have been decided. Under the program, tuition for students of low-income households will be reduced or waived, and grant-type financial aid might be provided to them.


More than 1,000 universities and junior colleges, or 97 percent of such educational institutions, met the requirements for the program, and were certified as such by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. The result is that all the educational institutions that have applied were accepted. It can be said that broader options could be ensured for high school students who need support.


Not certified were 31 private educational institutions that decided not to apply for the system. The requirements for certification stipulate that in the latest three years the schools must have secured more than 80 percent of their enrollment capacity and their budgets been in the black. Some of the 31 institutions could not meet these requirements.


Financial sources to cover the free education program will come from the increase in the consumption tax rate from October. As long as tax is used for the system, it is reasonable that educational institutions with management problems were removed from the target.


On the other hand, 62 percent of vocational schools, about 1,700 of them, were certified for the program. It is said that some of the schools that were not certified did not apply because the administrative procedures would be a large burden.


Make full use of studies


It is problematic if students lose opportunities to receive financial assistance for education because it was inconvenient for the schools. Educational institutions must deal sincerely with issues of support for students from now on.


What is required for universities, junior colleges and vocational schools that are eligible for the program is to improve the quality of their education. Higher education institutions that are entrusted with students who study through public funding are obliged to improve the students’ ability and send them out into society.


It is essential for schools to have students properly acquire wide-ranging knowledge, expertise and skills for their career by continuously improving their curriculum and teaching methods.


Students who receive assistance also need to make conscientious efforts.


Amid the harsh fiscal situation, eligiblity for free education was narrowed down to students of low-income households who truly need financial support. Students at national and public educational institutions will at maximum be completely waived from paying tuition. Those at private schools will be waived from fees of up to ¥700,000 each year. In terms of scholarships, up to about ¥910,000, including for living expenses, will be provided.


Under the free education program, if students show continued poor academic performance or their attendance rate is extremely low, the assistance will automatically be stopped. It is hoped that students will work hard in their studies and make full use of precious opportunities for them to have an education.


The number of high school graduates who work rather than go to university is not small. Students should not forget those in their generation who are taxpayers.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 22, 2019)

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