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Poor Students Better Motivated But More Stressed
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Students from low-income families, who make up 25 percent of Peking University's student body, are more highly motivated but more psychologically stressed than their well off peers.

The survey conducted by the China Youth Development Foundation polled 400 poorer students and found 80.3 percent of them said entering university was a "turning point in life."

Nearly half of the students from the countryside said they would have become migrant workers if they'd failed the college entrance exam. Only a small fraction of them said they'd return to farming.

The respondents also had high hopes that their education would help lift themselves and their entire families out of poverty which added to the pressure but made them more determined to succeed.

However, 60 percent of the polled students said they felt "utterly ashamed" of being poor and 22.5 percent had low self-esteem as they considered themselves "inferior" to others.

"They are reluctant to let others know they are poor and often refuse to accept goodwill gestures from their teachers and classmates," the survey observed.

Yang Guijun, a candidate for the national entrance exams in north China's Hebei Province, said he spent all his time with his books and regarded that as a way of paying back his teachers, schoolmates and society who encouraged and financed his middle school studies.

Fan Qianning, born to a poor family in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, experienced great highs and lows when she received her acceptance letter from the Beijing Communications University. For decades her family worked the land to eke out a meager living. Many of her relatives could barely read or write and she thought there would be no way she could afford to attend university in the country's capital.

Fan's family wouldn't allow the 20-year-old to pass up the opportunity to become the first in generations to receive a post-secondary education. They saved, borrowed and raised enough money for Fan's first year at college. Her second year was jointly financed by scholarships from the China National Offshore Oil Corp and the Soong Ching Ling Foundation. For her upcoming third year she has received a nationally subsidized student loan.

Fan admitted that on first entering the college, which could lead to a career in public relations or the news media, she often felt inferior to others. "Like all girls my age I too dreamed of dressing up like those born to rich families."

She's matured during her time in the big city and has learned to be herself, "I have shrugged off the sense of inferiority and have tried to make it on my own." Although the scholarships and loans have helped Fan, unlike most of her classmates, works part-time while keeping up with a heavy educational schedule. "I've become more strong willed and independent," Fan says with obvious pride.

In China a year's university education costs families at least 8,000 yuan (US$1,000). While the high cost of education is a burden on urban families many rural families don't earn nearly that much in an entire year.

Yet most rural Chinese families have come to recognize that a higher education is a way out of poverty and the countryside. Their dream of success is seeing at least one of their children attend university.

According to the Ministry of Education, China has 15.6 million college students and well over four million of them come from poorer families which accounts for 26 percent of the total.

Ministry statistics show that just 14.6 percent of students received financial aid leaving 1.78 million poorer students without monetary support.

Since 1999 China's state sponsored student loan system has assisted 2.3 million college students from poorer families by granting 19.09 billion yuan (about US$2.39 billion) in interest-free loans, the Ministry of Education reported Wednesday.

The ministry said that a new policy dubbed the "Green Channel" would be launched later this year which is designed to help every student who qualifies for further education regardless of their ability to pay.

The "Green Channel" will offer students who cannot afford tuition various subsidies including room and board, textbook fees and daily necessities. Some colleges will also organize part-time jobs on campus during vacations for students. 

Yang Zhenbin, a senior official with the Ministry of Education said, China's youth, both rich and poor, were the pillars of the country's future.

(Xinhua News Agency July 14, 2006) 

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