TOKYO -- Meiji Gakuin University, a private college based in Tokyo, has decided to give handouts of 50,000 yen to every single one of its roughly 12,000 enrolled students as an emergency measure to ensure access to equipment necessary for online classes amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
With classes being shifted online, students who are not already equipped with resources must secure new computers and internet connections. While the central and local government are preparing aid packages for residents, Meiji Gakuin University hopes to alleviate the burden of costs placed on students by distributing its own form of handouts.
The university has campuses in Tokyo's Minato Ward and Yokohama's Totsuka Ward, south of the capital, both of which have been shut down since April 8. The start of classes had been delayed from April 6 to April 20, with all courses being shifted to online classes, which will be continued for the time being beyond the extended "Golden Week" holiday that ends in early May. The 50,000-yen handouts are to be made using savings from a scholarship fund, and the sum total of payments apparently reaches roughly 600 million yen.
Relief measures in the form of special scholarships are also being considered to help students whose households are suffering from dramatic changes in income, due to reasons such as a parent's unemployment or a decline in earnings. Meiji Gakuin University announced that it will push back the deadline for paying tuition and other fees for the spring semester from the end of April to the end of May. The university is not planning to reimburse or reduce payments for tuition and facility expenses for the time being.
According to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, 80% of universities in Japan, including junior colleges, had decided on or were looking into the introduction of online, distance learning as of April 10. However, online classes that use video conference tools to engage in two-way communication require large amounts of data, which can be costly for those who do not have unlimited access to the internet. Another problem for online classes is that there is quite a number of students who do not own personal computers due to the rising popularity of smartphones.
(Japanese original by Shuji Ozaki, Regional News Department)