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Tuition Becomes Parents' Burden
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Parents' sleeping in the open reminds us to reflect on the high cost of schooling, says a signed article in Beijing Youth Daily. An excerpt follows:

A series of six photographs of parents sleeping on the campus playground of Tsinghua University in Beijing last Sunday has aroused much attention.

Some think that students should not leave their parents to sleep in the open air while sleeping in the dormitories themselves. Some say that the school authorities lack solicitude for the parents and the ability to meet emergency needs. Others say that there is no need for the parents to escort their children all the way to the campus because too much affection and care spoils a child.

The parents' love and care for their children becomes a hot topic every year when new students enrol in colleges. But unlike previous years, the fact that more than 100 parents put up in the open for several nights at one school shows a new form of difficulty common families have affording schooling.

After seeing their children registered as freshmen at this famous university, some of the parents choose to sleep in the open air on the campus partly because hotels nearby were all full, but most of them thought it was too expensive to stay in the hotel.

There would not be so many parents sleeping in the open if they had economic strength. If educational costs continue on an upward curve while low-income earners cannot increase their wealth, there will only be more and more such odd cases.

Actually, parents' sleeping in the open is a shame of the society. Statistics show that Chinese universities' average tuition and fees increased from 800 yuan (US$98) in 1995 to about 5,000 yuan (US$617) in 2004. And the sum for first-year students was 6,000 yuan (US$741). Accommodation rose from 270 yuan (US$33) in 1995 to 1,200 yuan (US$148) in 2004. Adding the expenditures of food and clothing, the average spending of a college student is about 10,000 yuan (US$1,235) a year.

In 2004, the average net income was 9,422 yuan (US$1,163) for urban residents and 2,936 yuan (US$362) for rural people. The charging cost of college education has reached or even exceeded the public's capacity to stand.

For many families, their children's entry into college is a good thing but also the start of their misery. There are extreme cases of parents committing suicide because they could not afford their children's schooling.

There is no sign that colleges will reduce their tuition and fees. And scholarship and loan programmes can hardly help solve the problem. Medium and low-income families still feel it difficult to support a university student.

Parents' sleeping in the open air sends a signal that should not be overlooked.

(China Daily August 25, 2006)

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