The Cabinet approved Tuesday a program to provide cash handouts of up to 200,000 yen ($1,900) each to around 430,000 university and other students in Japan struggling financially to cover tuition and other costs amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The support comes as the pandemic has led to business closures in many regions, depriving students of part-time jobs and reducing parental income. Students from overseas will also be eligible for the program.
Students from low-income households that are exempt from residence tax will receive 200,000 yen each and others 100,000 yen.
The government has set aside 53 billion yen to finance the program covering students at universities, graduate schools, junior colleges, technical schools and Japanese language schools.
"It's most important for students not to abandon continuing and advancing their education. We'd like to quickly provide assistance to all," education minister Koichi Hagiuda told reporters.
The government will rely on the institutions to determine which of their students should receive the assistance and will disburse the payments through the Japan Student Services Organization, an independent body that provides financial aid to students.
But some students have criticized the program, arguing it should cover more of them and tuition fees should be reduced.
With only one out of 10 students covered, a student advocacy group, which has been calling on the government to provide advanced education for free, described the program as "insufficient."
Facing diminished incomes amid the pandemic, around 20 percent of students are considering abandoning their studies, the body said, citing its survey in April.
"The fundamental problem is that every student is negatively affected by the disaster but there is no attempt to financially support all students," it said in a statement.