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Free university education must be operated based on public support

The Yomiuri ShimbunA law aimed at supporting low-income households by exempting them from tuition fees for university and other higher education institutions has been enacted. Appropriate application of the law is indispensable for necessary assistance to be extended to as many applicants as possible.

The advancement rate to universities, colleges and professional training colleges is about 80 percent for all households. However, the rate is about 40 percent in the case of households with an annual income of less than ¥2.7 million, the level below which no resident tax is due. Not a few people have to give up on advancing to institutions of higher learning for financial reasons.

It is understandable that the law has been designed to narrow the target of free education to households with tight budgets and guarantee opportunities for motivated and capable young people to receive higher education

Tuition fees will be reduced or waived for four-member family households with an annual income of less than ¥3.8 million. Households with a yearly income of less than ¥2.7 million will be exempted from tuition fees for national and public universities and exempted from fees of up to ¥700,000 a year at private universities.

Grant-type financial aid also has been expanded, with the maximum annual amount being raised from the current ¥480,000 to about ¥910,000.

The new education support system will be implemented from next spring, with a budget of ¥760 billion allocated from part of the revenues that will be generated from the 10 percent consumption tax rate hike this autumn. In terms of educational support, it can be said that the scale of assistance is unprecedented.

Needless to say, advancing to university is not the only course to take after graduating from high school. Setting a goal and choosing to work is an option that should be respected. People who make that choice will not receive support under the new measure. Strict management of the support system is called for to avoid a sense of unfairness being felt.

Enhance quality of education

It is natural to call for students subject to assistance to study hard and achieve certain levels of scholastic achievements.

Assistance will be discontinued if the credits acquired fall to 50 percent of the requirements or below, or if academic records continue to remain in the lowest quartile. Such criteria are being studied by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. The ministry is called on to set appropriate requirements after giving consideration to such unavoidable reasons as illness.

The financial aid to be provided will cover such costs as lodging fees and living expenses. Recipients are called on to use the funds exclusively for studying purposes, always keeping in mind that the money comes from the public purse.

Universities subject to tuition fee reductions or exemptions will reportedly be obliged to assign instructors with on-the-job experience in their fields to teach more than 10 percent of classes. This is aimed at promoting education that leads to an occupation.

However, depending on the field of specialization, there are studies not directly linked to vocations or occupations. If too much importance is placed on practical training, it may lead to constraining the substance of educational curriculums.

Meanwhile, because of the nation’s declining birthrate, it could be said that the number of universities is excessive. Many institutions are struggling to secure student enrollments. To prevent people from believing that the free education system is being used as a remedy, it is natural that universities with financial difficulties are not subject to the government assistance program.

Individual universities, for their part, must not neglect efforts to improve the quality of education.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 11, 2019)Speech



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