Japan Tobacco Inc. said Friday it will establish a university scholarship for students from low-income families, providing up to ¥8.8 million until graduation in the most generous program of its kind.

The program is scheduled to start next April, JT said.

“Students from low-income households tend to give up on attending university, so we’d like to offer support by providing a scholarship, which recipients don’t need to repay,” said Mahoko Tsuchiya, a spokeswoman for the Tokyo-based company.

The move is part of JT’s efforts to contribute to society, Tsuchiya said. The company has been offering scholarships to exchange students from other parts of Asia since 1998.

Under the new program, JT will provide a scholarship to as many as 50 students each year who enroll at 33 public universities nationwide designated by the company.

Annual support will range from about ¥4.86 million to ¥8.82 million per person, depending on various factors, including whether the students live with their parents. Students going on to graduate school could receive as much as ¥13.08 million over a six-year period, Tsuchiya said.

Students living with their parents will be given ¥50,000 per month as living expenses in addition to annual tuition of ¥540,000 and the ¥300,000 entrance fee. Students living on their own in Tokyo’s 23 wards will get ¥120,000 in living expenses in addition to a lump sum of ¥300,000 when they enter a university for moving and other expenses.

According to the education ministry, annual tuition for almost all national universities has remained unchanged at ¥535,800 since 2005, which is stipulated by a ministry ordinance. But the cost to attend private universities has increased over the years to an average of ¥859,367 in the 2012 academic year, up from ¥848,178 in 2008.

Japan has been criticized among developed countries for the cost individuals have to pay for higher education.

According to the OECD, “private sources” covered 65.6 percent of the total cost of higher education in 2010, up from 61.5 percent in 2000 and more than double the OECD average of 31.6 percent. Households covered 79 percent of the private sources cited in the survey, according to the OECD.

According to a survey of high school teachers conducted by education firm License Academy in 2010, 76.3 percent of teachers cited the expense as the main reason students give up on going to university.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.