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Private universities have expanded financial-assistance options for students, many of whom have seen their parents suffer pay- and job-cuts amid the economic downturn.

By the end of May, Senshu University in Tokyo had received applications for loan guarantees from a dozen students, having announced in September that it would be a guarantor for student loans in the event that parents are unable to borrow, a spokesman said.

The university has long allowed a grace period of about two months beyond the designated date for tuition payments. In recent years, however, it has seen a rising number of students fail to meet even the grace period deadline, prompting it to start the loan guarantee service, according to the spokesman.

Tohoku Gakuin University in Sendai recently launched interest-free loans for students whose parents have lost their jobs, while Waseda University in Tokyo is considering an emergency plan to offer scholarships throughout the year.

Two years ago, parents of students at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto formed an association to support students in financial difficulty. It provides up to 600,000 yen in scholarship funds to students if a parent dies.

The association recently expanded the scope of eligibility to students whose parents have lost their jobs. Last academic year, 45 students received a scholarship.

The Japan Scholarship Foundation, which offers student loans, is calling on troubled students to first consult their universities, if the schools have aid options, before applying for loans.

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