Grants could level college playing field (this link will expire soon)
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prof. Masayuki Kobayashi of Tokyo University’s Center for Research and Development of Higher Education recently gave a lecture at The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Tokyo head office on disparities in access to higher education related to the socioeconomic status of students’ families. The following is excerpted from his lecture.
To guarantee equal opportunity for students is the most important philosophy in education. It’s a great loss not only for individual members of society, but also for society itself, when individuals are unable to realize their potential because they do not enjoy equal opportunity in education.
However, Japan lacks policies to guarantee such equality.
Regarding access to higher education, the government has focused on providing scholarships or implementing measures to narrow regional gaps by establishing institutions of higher education in local areas.
Despite these efforts, there are still wide regional gaps even today in access to tertiary education: About 70 percent of Tokyo’s high school graduates attend universities, but the ratio decreases to about 30 percent in Kagoshima and Okinawa prefectures. Experts also have pointed to similar gaps between boys and girls, or between students from differing socioeconomic classes.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry contends that gaps in students’ access to higher education “have been narrowing” based on the results of its surveys on the lives of college students.
But research groups of sociologists disagree. They have concluded in their own surveys that these gaps “have widened, or, at least, have not been narrowed.”
Whether students can receive higher education depends largely on how much money their families can afford, in addition to the students’ own academic abilities.
My university’s Center for Research on University Management and Policy conducted a survey in 2005 on 4,000 high school students and their parents. It found that the higher the parents’ income, the more likely they were to send their children to university. This was more evident when looking into private institutions.
Asked how much of their children’s higher education tuition and other fees the parents would cover, “all of it” was chosen by nearly 90 percent of respondents with an annual income of 10 million yen or higher.
Even among those with an income of 4 million yen or less, about 50 percent chose the same response, which I think was a notable finding. About 30 percent of this class also said they would cover all the living expenses their children would need. It indicated that many students can proceed to college only when their parents or themselves–or both–scrimp and save.
When looking into how tertiary education is funded from country to country, Japan and South Korea are in the top ranks in terms of the proportion paid by families.
So far, Japan has seen no apparent gaps in access to higher education among different socioeconomic classes despite the fact that the government has been providing inadequate funding to this sector. I believe this can be attributed to households that cover their children’s education fees at all costs.
However, they cannot afford to make such sacrifices anymore. Tuition charged by higher educational institutions has gone through the roof, while many households have been suffering increasingly lower incomes. If we leave this situation as it is, the gaps in access to tertiary education will become the norm or even widen.
Therefore, I believe it’s necessary for us to help reduce the financial burden households bear for their children’s education. We should help them make financial plans for their children’s future education while they are at high school.
Let’s look at present-day England and the United States as examples. Tuition in these countries is expensive to gurantee the quality of education programs at universities. At the same time, however, the governments and other entities provide many grants to reduce the actual financial burden that eligible students have to bear.
In Japan, on the other hand, financial aid to students usually means student loans. They are onerous for recipients, and some students don’t apply for them. This indicates that these loans are not fulfilling their fundamental function in terms of helping students from lower-income families receive higher education.
Therefore, I believe that we should provide many more grants to students at tertiary institutions.
At the same time, however, if a growing number of choices makes financial aid systems more complicated, that would cause significant information gaps between those who are well informed and those who aren’t. Therefore, I believe we also should focus on providing students with programs on career development or financial literacy.
(Dec. 17, 2009)

Grants could level college playing field http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features/language/20091217TDY12101.htmThe Yomiuri Shimbun
Prof. Masayuki Kobayashi of Tokyo University’s Center for Research and Development of Higher Education recently gave a lecture at The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Tokyo head office on disparities in access to higher education related to the socioeconomic status of students’ families. The following is excerpted from his lecture.
To guarantee equal opportunity for students is the most important philosophy in education. It’s a great loss not only for individual members of society, but also for society itself, when individuals are unable to realize their potential because they do not enjoy equal opportunity in education.
However, Japan lacks policies to guarantee such equality.
Regarding access to higher education, the government has focused on providing scholarships or implementing measures to narrow regional gaps by establishing institutions of higher education in local areas.
Despite these efforts, there are still wide regional gaps even today in access to tertiary education: About 70 percent of Tokyo’s high school graduates attend universities, but the ratio decreases to about 30 percent in Kagoshima and Okinawa prefectures. Experts also have pointed to similar gaps between boys and girls, or between students from differing socioeconomic classes.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry contends that gaps in students’ access to higher education “have been narrowing” based on the results of its surveys on the lives of college students.
But research groups of sociologists disagree. They have concluded in their own surveys that these gaps “have widened, or, at least, have not been narrowed.”
Whether students can receive higher education depends largely on how much money their families can afford, in addition to the students’ own academic abilities.
My university’s Center for Research on University Management and Policy conducted a survey in 2005 on 4,000 high school students and their parents. It found that the higher the parents’ income, the more likely they were to send their children to university. This was more evident when looking into private institutions.
Asked how much of their children’s higher education tuition and other fees the parents would cover, “all of it” was chosen by nearly 90 percent of respondents with an annual income of 10 million yen or higher.
Even among those with an income of 4 million yen or less, about 50 percent chose the same response, which I think was a notable finding. About 30 percent of this class also said they would cover all the living expenses their children would need. It indicated that many students can proceed to college only when their parents or themselves–or both–scrimp and save.
When looking into how tertiary education is funded from country to country, Japan and South Korea are in the top ranks in terms of the proportion paid by families.
So far, Japan has seen no apparent gaps in access to higher education among different socioeconomic classes despite the fact that the government has been providing inadequate funding to this sector. I believe this can be attributed to households that cover their children’s education fees at all costs.
However, they cannot afford to make such sacrifices anymore. Tuition charged by higher educational institutions has gone through the roof, while many households have been suffering increasingly lower incomes. If we leave this situation as it is, the gaps in access to tertiary education will become the norm or even widen.
Therefore, I believe it’s necessary for us to help reduce the financial burden households bear for their children’s education. We should help them make financial plans for their children’s future education while they are at high school.
Let’s look at present-day England and the United States as examples. Tuition in these countries is expensive to gurantee the quality of education programs at universities. At the same time, however, the governments and other entities provide many grants to reduce the actual financial burden that eligible students have to bear.
In Japan, on the other hand, financial aid to students usually means student loans. They are onerous for recipients, and some students don’t apply for them. This indicates that these loans are not fulfilling their fundamental function in terms of helping students from lower-income families receive higher education.
Therefore, I believe that we should provide many more grants to students at tertiary institutions.
At the same time, however, if a growing number of choices makes financial aid systems more complicated, that would cause significant information gaps between those who are well informed and those who aren’t. Therefore, I believe we also should focus on providing students with programs on career development or financial literacy.
(Dec. 17, 2009)

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