China's relief project for needy college students, the New Great Wall Project, had raised 8.4 million yuan (about US$1 million) by Friday.
The fund is enough to benefit 4,000 college students, as each of them will receive 2,000 yuan to cover their living costs every year.
"We aim to help 10,001 poverty-stricken college students this year, but we still have a long way to go," said Liu Wenkui, deputy secretary-general of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFFPA).
According to the CFFPA, over 10,000 students have applied for financial help since April this year.
To monitor the fund, each of the donors will be kept informed of the use of the money, and students are advised to keep in touch with the donors, according to Zhang Hu, a sophomore at the China Agriculture University, who has been helped by the project since last year and is now working as a volunteer for the project in his spare time.
The cost of higher education began to soar with reforms in the mid-1990s, when the Chinese government stopped fully subsidizing it from the state budget. Tuition fees shot up from a few hundred yuan a year in the 1980s to from 3,500 yuan to 8,000 yuan (about US$960), not counting room and board.
Such a cost made higher education an unattainable luxury for students from families living below the poverty line, whose per capita monthly income is less than 200 yuan (about US$25).
CFFPA statistics indicate that about 20 percent of the country's 16 million college students are from poor families.
(Xinhua News Agency August 30, 2003)