Japanese Students Pass on American Universities

Waseda University

Japanese students value the safety of Japanese universities

For the international students competing to get into top American Universities, you will have one less country to worry about.  Japanese students are taking a decidedly cautious attitude towards American  Universities.

The Japanese have always been frugal, but also the most willing to invest in any skills or technology necessary to increase their competitiveness.   What has changed?  Young Japanese people now think that an American college degree is a “questionable” investment.  Perhaps two decades of recession has spoiled this generation’s appetite for risk.

I am impressed that there are young people who think critically about life after college when making their decision about where to attend college.  Planning for life after college is a practice we constantly emphasize on this blog.

That being said, let us reexamine American education as an investment for Japanese students:

1) Cost

Japanese universities are less crowded now and easier to get in to.  Conversely, American Universities are even more crowded and more expensive than they were 20 years ago.  Thus, a Japanese student would be giving up a cheaper, safer option for a more expensive option with higher upside but of very uncertain utility back in Japan.

2) Benefit

The number one concern for most students is whether they will be able to find a good job, in their field of study, after college.   In Japan, people are not as impressed with an American college degree as in other countries, though they are impressed with the ability to speak English, which an American degree does not guarantee.

Also, under the traditional Japanese corporate model, Japanese companies hire students fresh out of college, train them to their particular company’s standards, and employ them for life.  Thus, the company is usually relied on for education and training.  Because firms like to hire from the alma maters of the hiring managers, Japanese universities serve more as an instrument for accreditation than centers of human development and learning.  Students worked hard to get admitted into universities and, after gaining admission, are not expected to do much while waiting for employment.

The difference now is that lifetime employment is no longer guaranteed to corporate employees in Japan.  Employment is no longer guaranteed to students coming out of university nor to current employees at Japanese companies.   There is much more job-hopping and reapplying, which makes the job market more dynamic and challenging for everyone.

Thus, while Japanese universities are easier to get into, the payoff is not as certain as it used to be.   Are Japanese universities also a “questionable” investment?   We will look peer a little deeper into this question later this week.


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