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The government’s special account for national universities and other state-run education facilities piled up 6.498 trillion yen in debt as of the end of fiscal 2000, according to a financial report compiled by the education ministry.

As Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has vowed to promote structural reform “without sanctuaries,” it seems his coalition government will face hard choices in reforming the debt-ridden public education system.

The report, compiled along guidelines set by the Liberal Democratic Party, underscores how heavily state financing of higher education leans on taxpayer pockets.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is investigating options, including turning national universities into independent administrative entities or cutting their numbers.

The ministry’s idea has found receptive ears within the LDP, where advocates of privatization point to the benefits of more freedom in education and research.

According to the special account’s balance sheet, the government pumped in 4.559 trillion yen from the general account up to the last fiscal year, while government loans totaled 1.037 trillion yen.

While the special account for state-run schools showed a 17 billion yen surplus in fiscal 1998, it chalked up a 296 billion yen deficit the following year. Two years later, the deficit was 831 billion yen.

Fixed assets at national universities and other state-run educational facilities — including land, buildings and equipment — were estimated at 8.628 trillion yen.

The special account shows that the operating income at state-run schools, hospitals affiliated with national universities, and research institutes posted a deficit of 1.97 trillion yen in fiscal 2000.

As the government injected 1.487 trillion yen from the general account, the final operating deficit at those institutions came to 483 billion yen.

The LDP accounting guidelines provide for depreciation of assets and a reserve for pensions, in line with private sector standards.

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