The Tokyo consumer affairs center is warning college students to be careful of "job-hunting" schools, which can carry hefty price tags and cause students to not graduate from university on time due to focusing too much on their activities at these schools.
One mother whose eldest son used a job-hunting school and twice had to repeat a year told the center, "My son doesn't feel like a victim, but we paid a fair amount in study costs and travel expenses. We parents are the victims."
When the mother was contacted by her son about his first graduation delay, she learned that her son had barely been attending class and had not been job-hunting either, instead focused entirely on job interview lessons at the school and fundraising activities with them. The next spring, when she heard he was delaying his graduation again, she called the job-hunting school and asked them, "Just what are you teaching him?" Her son was a legal adult and she did not have the authority to cancel his contract with the school, but she pressed the reluctant school and got it to force her son to leave anyway.
The mother took her son back to their home far from his university, and -- as he continued attending university on a three-hour commute -- kept a close eye on him until he graduated and found a job.
"I felt deeply the need for parents to step in (in this kind of situation)," she says.
According to the consumer affairs center, some of these types of schools offer job-hunting students, who tend to feel lonely or nervous about their future, an exciting feeling of working together with others that is similar to that they felt during preparations for their school festivals, but at the same time they ignore problems when students become wrapped up in the activities at the school and don't actually hunt for jobs.
The above-mentioned school has also caused trouble with its persistent attempts to sign up students. A 19-year-old university student in Tokyo says that last year, he was asked by a young woman near a train station to fill out a survey. He gave her his phone number and later was informed that an explanatory meeting about the job-hunting school she represented had been set up for him. He went to the meeting on the agreement that it would take no longer than 20 minutes. When he tried to refuse to join, saying he didn't have money, they told him they could introduce him to a part-time job. The school representatives kept him there for two and a half hours trying to convince him to join.
"They talked as if it would be foolish not to join, and it was scary and made me angry. Even now other students are being targeted, and I see students who have joined, yelling and dancing in weird fund-raising activities," the student says.
Elsewhere, at one university in the metropolitan area, the existence of a school offering expensive seminars on subjects like "leadership building" has become a problem. According to an employee at the school's career center, which takes complaints from students about such schools, some years ago it was contacted about a school that, for 150,000 to 200,000 yen, took students to a training center at the base of Mount Fuji to stay for a week and made them shout their deficiencies there until they cried. Lately, the center is getting many complaints about schools that hold seminars at business hotels at prices just barely within what students can afford, such as 20,000 yen to 30,000 yen. By lowering the bar to entry they are trying to get the students in, then convince them to come back again and again, so that they will, as a result, end up paying a large total.
A second-year student who used money from her part-time job and loans from her parents to spend around 500,000 yen on such schools told the career center, "I can't take it anymore. But I've put so much money into the schools that I can't stop now."
Another characteristic of these schools is said to be how they will stir up students' anxieties, saying things like, "You don't have to sign up, but if you can't find a job, that's your life."
The people who come for help about these schools are usually the parents of students who have become heavily involved with the schools, or such students' classmates or fellow club members who have been invited by them to join. It is not unusual for problems to develop in the relationship of these students with their parents or friends.
The above-mentioned career center employee says, "When I think about how widespread these schools may be under the surface, I get goose bumps."
According to the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan, during the past five years, despite a tendency of more university graduates finding jobs, it has still received from 129 to 173 complaints a year about contracts with job-hunting schools.