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Student Aid Plans Should Be Better Publicized
Just days before the fall semester, a student in Baoji, Shaanxi Province faced the darkest period of his life.

His father, in despair because he could not raise 7,000 yuan (US$840) for university tuition, killed himself by jumping out of a window.

The student had been accepted at Shanghai's Fudan University. His father, a truck driver with a private company, had not been paid in two months.

The man by August 25, Fudan's deadline for paying tuition, had not been able to scrape up half of the money. He chose death rather than being reminded daily that his son could not attend school.

Perhaps the man would not have killed himself had he known about the various forms of assistance China provides financially troubled students.

Universities have vowed no single poor student will be shut out. Loans for poverty-stricken students help ensure those promises are kept.

China's commercial banks by the end of June lent 3 billion yuan (US$360 million) to 351,000 financially troubled college students.

China in 1989 ended its free college education system. Assistance for poor students include loans, scholarships and the waving of tuition.

The Baoji student's sad story reveals, however, publicity about these assistance programmes has been inadequate.

Universities must correct this problem.

Schools should include with admission letters notices about the loans and other forms of assistance.

The Baoji student, with a justification letter from the relevant local department, could have registered at Fudan -- and applied for a loan.

Loans to poor students are granted without collateral. The government pays 50 percent of the interest on such loans to ease students' financial burdens.

That information, however, failed to reach the father. It also has not reached countless other students, especially in rural areas.

The Baoji student received more than 16,000 yuan (US$1,900) of donation -- more than his father had tried to raise -- after media coverage of his father's suicide.

It was a heart-warming finale.

Pledges by the universities and colleges to help poor students are plausible.

But such noble assurances must not become empty promises because publicity is inadequate.

(China Daily September 6, 2002)

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