Okinawa University offers fees waivers for foster care students

Okinawa University offers fees waivers for foster care students

March 29, 2013 Yoko Takaesu of Ryukyu Shimpo

On March 28, Okinawa University announced that it has set up a special bursary for foster-care students who need assistance. All tuition fees will be waived for these students for four years. Starting from next April, a limited number of enrollees who pass the university’s special admission exam are eligible.

This is the first waiver of this type among Okinawa’s public and private universities. Outside Okinawa, the Yamaguchi University of Human Welfare and Culture in Yamaguchi has a similar bursary program, but the waiver of tuition fees is only for two years. According to Okinawa University, a full waiver of tuition fees for four years is rare in Japan.

The Okinawa Foster Parent Association and personnel of foster care facilities appreciate this program, and they expressed their desire that other universities will following Okinawa University’s example, and set up such programs.

Under the Child Welfare Act, children living in foster care facilities and foster children will no longer need to be under the care of a foster-care facility or foster parents upon graduation from high school.

It is said many children have to give up on hopes of progressing to higher education because they are unable to afford it. In addition, a study carried out by the Okinawa Children’s Welfare Council in 2005 indicated that 46% of children in foster care facilities in Kyushu and Okinawa who went on to higher education eventually dropped out citing hardship, and even those presently enrolled found the cost of tuition to be a problem.

The president of Okinawa University, Akihiko Kato, stated, “I wanted to respond to the needs of students who wanted to learn in their difficult circumstances. It helps other students around them to understand another side of society.”

Applicants must have a recommendation from a foster care facility or the like, and one from their high school principal stating that they are capable of maintaining good results for the four years. To continue receiving the bursary successful applicants are required to take 30 or more credits a year and have a GPA of 2.5 or above after the second year.

Kiyohiko Toyama, the head of the Okinawa Foster Parent Association, said, “There have been many cases of foster parents bearing the expenses of higher education for their foster children. I’m very happy to hear about this waiver of tuition fees. This will serve as motivation for the children and give foster parents the confidence to encourage them towards higher education.”

Choki Shimabukuro, the head of the Okinawa Children’s Welfare Council, stated, “This has been a long-sought after program because there have been many children who have given up on their dream of higher education. I thank Okinawa University for what they have done. I hope that other universities will start similar programs so children can continue pursuing their dreams.”

Okinawa University’s welfare special fees waiver for foster care students
[Application Requirements]
・To be in a foster care facility or foster home
・Recommendation from the head of the facility
・Have difficulty paying tuition fees
・Take the special admission examination for Okinawa University
・Recommendation from high school principal stating that they can maintain good results for the four years
[A limited number of applicants will be accepted]

(English translation by T&CT, Lima Tokumori and Mark Ealey)

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