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More than 1,300 students have dropped out of universities and other higher education facilities in Japan since April last year due to the impact of the novel coronavirus epidemic, according to the education ministry.

While seeking advice at consultation centers, some students said they cannot pay tuition and others expressed loneliness, as they couldn’t make friends through online classes.

As a result, experts are calling for support tailored to the situations of individual students.

A total of 1,367 students left public or private universities, junior colleges or other tertiary institutions from April to December last year, the ministry said.

Many of them cited economic difficulties, difficulty adapting to school and a loss of motivation to study as reasons for dropping out. About one-third of them quit school in their first year.

In May last year, Tokyo-based recruitment support company JAIC Co. started providing advice to students who were considering quitting school amid the pandemic. The company has handled 50 cases so far.

Tomohiro Kokubo, who is in charge of the service, has helped 2,000 school dropouts search for jobs, starting prior to the pandemic, and heard many of them express regret over their decision to quit school.

Students “tend to submit a notice of quitting school without knowing who to talk to (before making a decision) under the current circumstances,” Kokubo said. “If they have a place to be heard beforehand, there may be a different result.”

Through the JAIC consultation service, many students said they felt a sense of loneliness or lost interest in school, apparently due to a lack of interaction with others after classes went online due to the coronavirus.

JAIC introduces benefit programs to students who face economic problems due to a reduction in part-time work hours and their parents losing their jobs. The company also gives advice to school dropouts.

Shigeru Yamamoto, a specially appointed professor at Taisho University who is well-versed in the subject, noted that students amid the pandemic are experiencing loneliness, emptiness and dissatisfaction with online classes, anxiety over job hunting and economic difficulties.

Some of these problems are combining to lead students to drop out of school, according to Yamamoto.

He said first-year students have a strong tendency to feel lonely.

Schools “need to help students have an actual feeling of growth and a sense of fulfillment,” Yamamoto said, calling on them to sort out issues that came up in the past year and make use of the lessons for new students.

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