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New Semester, More Fees?
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September 1 is the momentous day when students register at their universities. This day symbolizes the start of a new semester and this day inevitably evokes mixed feelings: hopes, dreams, fears, jubilation and anxiety.

This academic year the government has stipulated that without the formal approval of Chinese educational authorities, tuition fees and accommodations cannot be raised arbitrarily. So what is the current situation?

No rise in public universities

September 5 witnessed the freshman Zhao Jing's first day as a student in the Economics Department of the Renmin University of China. She had previously applied for the state educational loans to cover her 5,000 yuan tuition (US$625) and 800 yuan accommodation fee (US$100).

Her father said: "Both of my children are in college now. Zhao Jing has an older sister who was enrolled in the Northern University for Nationalities in the Ningxia Autonomous Region two years ago. My family has to spend more than 10,000 yuan (about US$1250) on her education and necessities every year. For all four years, we will need more than 50,000 yuan (US$6250)."

"Thanks to the government's policy, the educational fees have not been raised. Even so, we almost cannot bear to pay them as they are now," he added.

Bai Xiaohua's family hails from the rural areas around Shenzhou City in Hebei Province. Their children's tuition fees are really a heavy burden as well. Having two college students and depending solely on their 20 mu farmland (15 mus equal one hectare), the family also cannot afford higher tuition charges.

"Our tuition hasn't been raised," said Liu Dan, a senior student enrolled in the Advertisement Department of Nanjing University. "I will graduate next year, but my fees are the same as they were the first year."

A senior student from the Journalism and Communication School in Peking University stated that instead of an increase, her fees have actually been reduced from 5300 yuan (US$662.5) for the first and second years to 50,000 yuan (US$6250) for the following two years.

According to the Ministry of Education, public university fees in 2006 have remained at the same level as they were six years before.

To respond to general public concern that the recent soaring Consumer Price Index (CPI) would cause an increase in education fees, Assistant Minister of the Education Yang Zhoufu explained that because educational charges are made on the basis of regulations issued by the government in 1996, there is no direct relationship between the CPI and school tuition.

Yang also stressed that if the CPI continues to rise, the government will earmark more money for education in order to balance the negative influence. In effect, people still need not worry about the rise in the cost of education.

Fees in private schools rocketing

According to the China Youth Daily, students with different majors enrolled in a private school in Hunan Province have complained that their fees have increased by about 500 yuan (US62.5).

Meanwhile, fees in many schools around the Chongqing Municipality are also mounting, ranging from 500 yuan to 2000 yuan (US$250).

Parents and students all criticized the fact that private and independent schools have violated the government's May 2007 regulation.

However, a ministry spokesperson confirmed that the regulation does not cover non-public schools. If formally approved by local price control authorities, these colleges have the right to raise their prices.

A survey conducted by Professor Cai Yanhou from the Central South University showed that in 2006 the average tuition fees for science in independent schools was 12,217 yuan (US$1527) while charges for the arts reached 12,034 yuan (US$1504). Private schools charged respectively 11,100 yuan (US$1388) and 10,500 yuan (US$1313).

Professor Cai stressed that because governmental financial supports are lacking, these schools have had to shift the extra cost onto their students. He suggested that the government should balance the education curriculum to resolve this issue.

Students also complained that schools have cut corners in some training programs or in courses to reduce expenses.

Yang, a sophomore from an independent school in Jiangsu Province, said that although his fees stayed at the same level during his four college years, the school's military training, widely considered by Chinese public universities to be an essential part of college life, was canceled.

"This difficult exercise would have been helpful for us all. My classmates agree.  I think it was already covered by our fees," he added.

(China.org.cn by Wang Ke, September 10, 2007)

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