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Straighten out Student Loans
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Guarantees from both local and central governments are important to the healthy operation of student loan system, says a signed article in Yanzhao Metropolis Daily. An excerpt follows:

It was revealed recently that about 80 million yuan (US$10 million) of the planned 200 million yuan (US$25 million) in student loans for last school year have not been granted in Yunnan Province. That means about 20,000 students have not received timely assistance.

State student loans are the presentation of social funding for equal opportunities of higher education. But the ungranted 80 million yuan in loans show that there are defects in the loan system. In fact, this is just a microcosm of the current plight the system faces.

Higher education institutions and banks are facing a plight between responsibility and risk. Schools may meet difficulty if they shoulder too much moral responsibility and ignore financial risks. It will also burden banks. Since about 20 percent of college graduates break their loan contracts in Yunnan, banks hold up issuing more loans.

Actually, the government should shoulder more responsibilities in this regard to solve the problem.

There is an imbalance between the interest distribution and cost of state student loans. As a public product, state student loans have strong policy effects. Their effective implementation would contribute to social stability and harmony. Otherwise it will cause inequality of opportunities in higher education, which will affect harmonious social development.

So far, a risk compensation mechanism is in place to ensure the interest of banks. Schools and local governments will pay for the compensation. As the financial situation for schools is normally not so optimistic, they find it difficult to pay the compensation.

Regional governments' financial abilities vary. Some of them, especially those in western regions, can hardly support the discount student loans. As the credit system has not been established yet, banks are not willing to issue non-guarantee student loans.

Our central and provincial governments should shoulder more responsibilities in financing poor students. The provincial government can provide guarantees and the central government can re-guarantee bad loans for students. If the loans are not paid by students, the government should give banks subsidies in the full amount to ensure that the banks can continue issuing students loans. This is the only way to reverse the imbalance of interest and cost and ensure a smooth development of student loans.

(China Daily August 31, 2006)

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