College Tuition Fees Rise Sharply in China

University tuition fees rose some 50 percent this year compared with the 1999 costs, government figures reveal.

A recent survey shows that a university freshman has to pay an average 4,500 yuan (US$569) per year, and the growth rate of the tuition fees is much higher than that of ordinary people's income in the country.

A city dweller earned average 5,856 yuan in 1999; in rural areas the figure was 2,210 yuan. However, most urban families said that they can afford the rising cost of higher education.

"This is a major step in China's educational reform. We firmly support it, and we believe our child will earn much more after he graduates," said Liu Weiming, a salesman in Tianjin, one of major economic centers in north China.

Chinese universities used to cover all expenses of the students and assign jobs for them, until the 1990s when the wheels of the market economy rolled onto campuses.

Most universities began to charge the students in an effort to make up for huge operating expenses.

Some students call this progress. "The study and living conditions have improved," said Li Yiwei, a student of Nankai University, adding that telephones and computers have been installed in the dormitories.

However, their parents have to work harder.

According to a survey by the China Social Survey Institute, 43 percent of Chinese families have a special bank account for their children's education, and 29 percent of the parents have bought education insurance.

Some 31 percent of parents have taken two or three jobs in their spare time, and 38 percent said they are cutting corners in their daily spending.

Poverty-stricken families are under extreme pressure, according to the survey. Subsidies are expected to come from the government and society.

State banks have decided this year to provide no-warranty loans for the families that cannot pay tuition fees. Many universities have provided scholarships or reduced tuition fees for the students from poor families.

(Xinhua 10/18/2000)

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