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Feature2 Making Public High Schools Tuition-Free and High School Enrollment Subsidies

The tuition-free high school program commences

The Act on Free Tuition at Public High Schools and the High School Enrollment Support Fund was enacted on March 31, 2010 and came into force on April 1 of the same year. The Act created a program to make public high schools tuition-free and provide students at private high schools with school enrollment subsidies.

Aim of the program

Today, nearly 98% of young people of high school age enter high school or its equivalent. High schools have become a type of national educational institution, and the benefits of high school education extend across many spheres of society. For this reason, the entire society needs to shoulder the costs of the education provided at high schools and equivalent institutions.
 Minimizing the financial burden on households to ensure that all motivated high school students can feel secure about receiving education, irrespective of the financial situations of their families, is an issue that needed to be tackled urgently.
 Overseas, many countries offer tuition-free latter-phase secondary school education. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights contains a provision regarding the progressive introduction of tuition-free secondary school education. As you can see from these facts, tuition-free high schools have become increasingly common worldwide.
 Based on these viewpoints, the tuition-free high school program was launched with the aim of facilitating society-wide efforts to support everyone’s opportunity to learn and to help one another.

Outline of the program

In principle, public high schools are not supposed to collect tuition. Instead, the national government subsidizes the required amounts of money to local public organizations.
 Students at private high schools are provided with a specific amount of money (118,800 yen, multiplied by 1.5 or 2 for students from low-income households) as a school enrollment subsidy, which is intended to be appropriated for their tuition. High schools receive the money on behalf of the students or their parents and use it to offset part of the tuition, so that the financial burden on students and their parents with regard to the payment of their tuition can be minimized easily and with absolute certainty. In addition to the support of the national government, prefectural governments will begin to make efforts to increase the support they have offered to date.

To reach an international level of educational environment

It is hoped that the new program will enable all motivated high school students to feel secure about devoting themselves to studying without worrying about their educational expenses. The support for increasing the availability of the learning experience to include numerous institutions is expected to provide students with many more choices in terms of learning opportunities. The new program also represents an historic step toward developing educational conditions to rival those of international society, while withdrawing the reservation of the progressive introduction of tuition-free secondary school education as stated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

It is hoped that the young people who benefit from the program by attending and studying at high school will lead the future of society in this country by broadening the extent of their activities.

Outline of the Act on Free Tuition Fee at Public High Schools and the High School Enrollment Support FundEnacted on April 1, 2010

Aim of the program

Make public high schools tuition-free and establish high school enrollment subsidies to relieve students’ families of the burden of their educational expenses, with the aim of enabling all motivated high school students to feel secure about devoting themselves to studying, irrespective of the financial situations of their families.

Outline of the program

(1) School types

The program applies to the following types of school: national, mktk and private high schools; secondary education schools (latter course); schools for special needs education (upper secondary school department); colleges of technology (1st ‐ 3rd year students); specialized training colleges and other miscellaneous schools that the Ordinance of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology designates as providing courses equivalent to high school courses※. [High schools and secondary education schools include full-day, day/evening and correspondence courses.]

※ Advanced courses at specialized training colleges
Miscellaneous international schools that are designated by the Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology as satisfying the requirements specified in the Ordinance of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

(2) Measures concerning public high schools

Public high schools (including secondary education schools (latter course) and schools for special needs education (upper secondary school department) are not supposed to collect tuition. Instead, local public organizations receive an amount of money equal to the tuition income appropriated from national expenditure.

(3) Measures concerning private high schools

Students at high schools other than those defined in (2) above receive a specific amount of money as a high school enrollment subsidy for use in the payment of tuition (the amount of money is increased for students from low-income households who are enrolled at a private high school or its equivalent※). The school administrator receives the subsidy on behalf of the students.

※Depending on their income (determined on the basis of a municipal tax per-income levy amount), a specific amount of money (118,800 yen) is multiplied by 1.5 or 2 before being appropriated as the subsidy.
Tax exemption regarding municipal tax per-income levy: 237,600 yen (doubled)
Per-income levy amount of less than 18,900 yen: 178,200 yen (multiplied by 1.5)

Public high schools : Tuition is not collected and there is no charge

Collection or non-collection of high school tuition in other developed countries

Country Collection/non-collection of tuition Commencement of tuition-free system※
United States Not collected Depends on the state (a tuition-free system was commenced in Massachusetts in 1827 and in six other states prior to the Civil War)
Britain Not collected 1944 (England/Wales)1918 (Scotland)
Canada Not collected The tuition-free system was universal by the 1930s(depending on the state)
Italy Collected (the tuition amount is low)
Australia Not collected Unknown
Germany Not collected 1919 (Weimar Constitution) (In former West Germany and current Germany, each state has its own regulations regarding the tuition-free system)
France Not collected 1933
Sweden Not collected Unknown
New Zealand Not collected 1936
Austria Not collected 1962
Belgium Not collected 1959
Denmark Not collected Unknown
Finland Not collected Unknown
Netherlands Not collected Unknown
Mexico Not collected Unknown
Spain Not collected Unknown
Portugal Collected (the tuition amount is low)
Korea Collected

※ The year in which the tuition-free system was legalizedCountryUnited

Source:Document study at the National Diet Library

Eight questions on the Tuition Free Public High Schools and High School Enrollment Subsidy Program

Q1 Are there any income-based restrictions?

A1 The subsidy is applicable to everyone who satisfies certain requirements, irrespective of their income.
 The new program is designed so that the entire society supports the education provided at high schools, which are a type of national educational institution. Many countries make latter-phase secondary school education tuition-free, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also contains a provision about the progressive introduction of tuition-free secondary school education. As you can see from these facts, tuition-free high schools are already common worldwide. In consideration of these facts, the financial support program contains no income-based restrictions.

Q2 Is the program applicable to day/evening or correspondence high schools or specialized training colleges?

A2 The new program is applicable to:

  • High schools;
  • Latter courses at secondary education schools;
  • Upper secondary school department of schools for special needs education;
  • 1st to 3rd year students at colleges of technology; and
  • Specialized training colleges and miscellaneous schools that the Ordinance of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology designates as providing courses equivalent to those of high schools.

 The new program applies to day/evening and correspondence courses as well as full-day high schools and secondary education schools.
 Strictly speaking, the program does not apply to all advanced courses at specialized training colleges, or to all miscellaneous schools. Concerning the former, those designed for junior high school graduates can receive the subsidy, while the latter must be international schools that satisfy specific requirements.
 Facilitating learning opportunities at many educational institutions will make it easier financially for students to learn at an institution at which they really want to learn.

Q3 In some situations, may public high schools collect tuition?

A3 In principle, the relevant law states that public high schools (including latter courses at secondary education schools and upper secondary school department of schools for special needs education) will not collect tuition.
 However, the law also states that a decision for or against collecting tuition may be deferred to a local public organization if, for some reason, not collecting tuition may be deemed to be unjustifiable with respect to fairness among public high school students in terms of their shouldering educational expenses. Examples of questions about fairness may involve people who have already graduated from high school, or those who are in high school longer than they are supposed to be. The treatment of such individuals may differ among local public organizations. For enquiries, please contact the prefectural or municipal government that administers the high school.

Q4 Students at private high schools have to pay higher tuition, so don’t they need more financial assistance?

A4 The school enrollment subsidy program supports all students at private high schools by offering up to 118,800 yen per capita. This subsidy may also be increased, depending on the parents’ income, with consideration given to the fact that private high schools impose a heavy financial burden in terms of tuition. If the family of a student has tax exemption with regard to the municipal tax per-income levy, the subsidy offered to the family is doubled. If the municipal tax per-income levy amount is less than 18,900 yen, the subsidy offered to the relevant family is multiplied by 1.5.

In addition to the new program, the national government will make efforts to ensure the enhancement of commitments that have been made by the prefectural governments, such as tuition exemption. For example, the following assistance initiatives have been implemented:

  • Measures regarding local grant tax concerning assistance with tuition exemption have been increased (budget for 2010: approximately 5 billion yen (increase of around 3 billion yen versus previous year)).
  • Unit prices per student concerning assistance with private school enrollment have been increased (306,143 yen = total unit price of government subsidy and local grant tax (increase of 5,200 yen (1.7%) versus previous year)).
  • Considering the worsening economic situation, the high school enrollment support fund (primary supplementary budget for 2009: approximately 48.6 billion yen for three years from 2009 to 2011) is designed to offer emergency support to the scholarship program for high school students who encounter enrollment difficulties due to economic reasons caused by the prefectural government, or to tuition exemptions for students at private high schools.
    (The fund also applies to the entrance fee exemption program from 2010.)

 In 24 municipalities, households with an annual income of less than 2.5 million yen receive an amount of money equivalent to an exemption from the entire tuition cost. Including the 13 municipalities that have already implemented the program, a total of 37 municipalities enjoy a level of assistance equivalent to total exemption. Private high school students from low-income households, in particular, need financial assistance. For these students, a combination of the school enrollment subsidy and tuition exemption subsidy will rival or even exceed the level of assistance that has previously been provided in any prefecture. (Source: interviews with prefectural governments as of April 1, 2010)

Making private high schools tuition-free (package of measures)

(Measures included in the 2010 budget regarding the tuition-free high school program)

○Every student at a private high school is provided with a school enrollment subsidy of around 120 thousand yen.
○The amount of the subsidy is doubled (to around 240 thousand yen) for households with an annual income of around 2.5 million yen, or is multiplied by 1.5 (to around 180 thousand yen) for households with an annual income of between 2.5 million and 3.5 million yen※.
○Assistance with entrance fee exemption is added to a package of projects to which the high school enrollment support fund applies.

Making private high schools tuition-free (package of measures)

※The criterion for income necessitating an increase in the school enrollment subsidy is determined on the basis of the municipal tax per-income levy. The above example of annual income is based on a household consisting of four members (parents and two children).

Q5 Does the new program apply to anything other than tuition?

A5 The new program focuses on tuition.
 However, the burden of educational expenses other than tuition cannot be overlooked. Prefectural governments have implemented loan-based scholarship programs. In 2008, 159,000 students received scholarship loans (totaling around 46.4 billion yen). These scholarships may be appropriated for tuition and other expenses. The scholarship program, previously administered by the Japan Student Services Organization, was transferred to the prefectural governments. The current scholarship program was commenced with students who entered high school in 2005. The national government offered high school scholarship subsidies of around 28.1 billion yen in 2009 (27 billion yen in 2010) for the purpose of ensuring the implementation of the program in all prefectures.
 The high school enrollment support fund can be sufficiently appropriated for part of the financial resources of prefecture-administered scholarship programs, and can also be used for levies (on facilities, equipment etc.) that can be deemed to be virtually equivalent to tuition, as well as for the tuition of private high school students. From 2010, the fund is also applicable to the exemption from entrance fees. The national government supports the prefectural commitments to minimizing the burden of tuition and other educational expenses.

Q6 What process is required to receive the school enrollment subsidy? I understand that the subsidy may be increased depending on the income of the recipients. Is a specific process also required to obtain the increase?

A6 In order for students at private high schools to receive the school enrollment subsidy, they need to qualify for the subsidy by submitting an application to the governor of the prefecture via the school administrator. Applicants must satisfy certain requirements such as having an address in Japan, not having graduated from high school or its equivalent, and not having been enrolled in high school or its equivalent for 36 months or longer.
 Receiving the additional income-based subsidy requires the submission of an application including documents such as the parents’ taxation certificate.

Q7 What benefits can be expected from the implementation of the new program?

A7 The new program will enable all motivated high school students to feel secure about devoting themselves to studying without worrying about their educational expenses.
 For example, around 2,500 students leave high school early each year due to financial reasons. The implementation of the new program will enable students such as these to continue receiving high school education.
 The program is designed to support numerous different opportunities for learning, such as advanced courses at specialized training colleges. This will offer a choice of many different learning opportunities to financially challenged students who would otherwise have difficulty adapting to high school education and would have no choice but to leave early.
 Efforts made by schools to educate students on the importance of the program will boost their awareness that the education they receive is supported by society, so that they remain motivated to learn more and pursue their growth as an individual who will help create a better nation and society in the future.
 We will also remain committed to ensuring that students have opportunities to remain motivated and increase their awareness about their future profession. As members of society, students will gain an understanding of the public nature of the education they receive, that is, the fact that their learning experience is supported by tax that is paid by the people and comes from the people’s labors.
 Hopefully the new program will help students to lead the society of our country in the future by expanding the realm of their activities.

Q8 The tuition-free program may make it very difficult to access public high schools, because more students will be inclined to attend public high schools. Is that wrong?

A8 The school enrollment subsidy is designed to offer students at all private high schools an equal level of support to that received by students at public high schools. Students from low-income households may receive a greater subsidy.
 In this way, students at private high schools enjoy generous support with enrollment, as do their counterparts at public high schools. They have more career choices than they did in the past. In the past, many young people could not afford to attend private high schools, even if they wanted to. Now, young people of high school age in similar financial situations can choose private high schools. In that regard, the tuition-free program does not necessarily mean that there is an increased difficulty in attending public high schools.

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Lifelong Learning Policy Bureau Policy Planning and Coordination Division

(Lifelong Learning Policy Bureau Policy Planning and Coordination Division)