¥7 million income limit eyed for free tuition system

JIJI

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will begin deliberations on introducing an income limit for tuition waivers for public high schools in fiscal 2014.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party criticized the free tuition program, a key policy introduced by the previous government of the Democratic Party of Japan in fiscal 2010, as wasteful and proposed an income limit for eligible families in its campaign pledges for last December’s House of Representatives election, which brought the LDP back to power.

Education minister Hakubun Shimomura told a press conference after taking up his position in December that the limit would be “promptly” introduced.

But with third-year junior high school students planning to go to high school on the basis of free tuition, the limit will be adopted in fiscal 2014 to “prevent confusion among students and parents,” he added. Fiscal 2014 starts in April 2014.

Abe told an Upper House plenary session on Jan. 31 that his administration would review the program to make it “available to those who really need it.”

The LDP is expected to focus discussions on a plan to introduce an annual income limit of ¥7 million for eligibility and use the savings to introduce a new scholarship program for students from low-income families and cut tuition fees for private high schools. The scheme was proposed by the LDP when it was out of power but was rejected by the DPJ-led government.

The DPJ government introduced the tuition waiver while cutting national and local income tax deductions for dependents.

Under the existing program, families are exempt from paying an annual tuition fee of ¥118,800 per student in principle. But cuts in the income tax deduction resulted in tax increases of ¥62,000 for families with annual incomes of around ¥8 million and ¥112,000 for those with incomes of ¥25 million per year.