National

Starving for talent, Yoshinoya offers to pay college tuition for student workers

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

It’s tempting news for college students working at Yoshinoya.

The gyudon (beef bowl) restaurant chain is offering to pay your tuition if you continue to work at Yoshinoya Co. for four years after graduation. Even more surprising is that it will pay half the tuition even if you move to one of its rivals after getting your diploma.

“We want people who gave up going to university due to financial reasons to use the system,” said Yuriko Handa, spokeswoman for parent Yoshinoya Holdings Co. “We also want to support prospective students who would contribute to improving our industry, even if they don’t work for Yoshinoya.”

The company said Friday it will lend money for enrollment and tuition to up to 10 student employees a year starting with those set to begin school in April 2018.

Borrowers will be exempt from repayment if they enter Yoshinoya after graduation and stay for at least four years. If they work for other companies in the same industry, they will only need to pay back half the loans, it said.

Like many other restaurant chains, Yoshinoya is struggling to secure staff amid from a shrinking population. The company hopes the new incentive program will help it secure talented young employees in the future.

To receive a Yoshinoya scholarship, students must be part-timers who work at least three hours a week. If they quit midway, the loan must be paid back in full.

Student loans are climbing as more parents struggle to finance their children’s education in a chronically sluggish economy.

According to government-backed lender Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO), 1 in every 2.6 university students received a student loan in fiscal 2015 versus 1 in every 4.3 in fiscal 2004.

Given the surging demand, the government will launch a new state-backed scholarship program for students from low-income households. The Diet cleared a related bill on Friday to kick off the program on Saturday.

In fiscal 2017, JASSO plans to provide up to ¥40,000 per month in scholarship fees to 2,800 students. From fiscal 2018, the program is expected to expand to include around 20,000 impoverished students in each grade.

The government earmarked a ¥7 billion budget for the program for fiscal 2017.