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Cost of Education

Soars in Japan

While Wages Stand Still


The steep price of educating a child through high school and university may be a factor in Japan’s population decline.

Even if a Japanese couple wants a second child, hearing that it will cost ¥10 million for high school and university education may give serious pause.

A survey on the current status of educational costs in Japan has shown that the cost of high school education for one child is ¥2.37 million and university is ¥7.16 million, adding up to over ¥10 million. This figure, however, does not include a living allowance for food, clothes, and other items. Nor does it account for the increase in requests that come with students this age, such as wanting a new smartphone or a Disneyland trip with friends. Parents need to ready themselves for these expenses.

Annual study costs (including tuition fees, commuting expenses, materials, and monthly costs for cram school) per student are on average ¥685,000 during high school and rise to ¥1.56 million for university. On top of this, there are also enrollment costs (examination fees, expenses for the chosen school, and initial fees for other schools during the selection process), which create an extra burden of ¥319,000 in the first year of high school and ¥884,000 in the first year of university.

Studying at a national or public university costs a cumulative total of ¥7.76 million, while for private universities, studying humanities takes ¥9.68 million, and sciences ¥10.64 million. The type of university can therefore mean a difference in cost of ¥2-3 million.

The most common way to raise funds to cover educational costs was to cut other expenditures (31.7%), followed by breaking into savings and insurance (23.3%), winning scholarships (21.0%), and students themselves doing part-time work (20.3%).

The parents of current university students were at university during the bubble economy. Ministry of education statistics show that in 1989 the annual tuition fees for private university were ¥570,584. As of 2017, this had risen by ¥330,000 to ¥900,093. Average wages, however, peaked in 1997 and then gradually began to decline. They hit rock bottom in 2009 and have now only just returned to the same level they stood at prior to the global financial crisis in 2008. This means that educational costs are becoming a heavier burden on household budgets. This could well be one reason for the shrinking population.