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China to Double Its Financial Aid Fund for Students Next Year
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Millions more Chinese university and vocational students from low-income families will be entitled to some financial assistance next year as the government plans to double its student aid program.


The central and provincial governments will spend 30.8 billion yuan (about US$3.95 billion) to provide financial aid to colleges and vocational school students beginning in September 2008, Deputy Finance Minister Zhang Shaochun announced on Monday.


That's up from 15.4 billion yuan this year and 15 times more than was provided to low-income students in 2006 when the student assistance program gave out 1.8 billion yuan, said Zhang.


The central government will allocate 20 billion yuan to the program while local governments will be expected to supply the remainder.


The augmented fund will be used to offer higher grants and scholarships to more students in need.


The value of national scholarships for postgraduate students will also be doubled to 8,000 yuan a year beginning in September, said Zhang adding that the number of students receiving the scholarships will jump to 50,000.


Twenty percent of college undergraduates are now entitled to student aid granted by the program, up from just 3 percent in 2006. This year qualified students can receive 2,000 yuan a year, an increase of 500 yuan from the previous year.


University tuition fees are about 5,000 yuan a year and student accommodation is about 1,200 yuan a year. It's estimated it costs the average student some 10,000 yuan a year to attend university


In September 2008 when the budget for the aid program doubles to more than 30 billion yuan many more millions of students are expected to receive financial aid, but the exact number has yet to be worked out.


This year assistance has been provided to 90 percent of secondary vocational school students up from the previous 5 percent, with each entitled to receive 1,500 yuan, up 500 yuan from the previous year, according to Zhang.


A total of 4 million undergraduates and 16 million secondary vocational school students are expected to receive financial assistance this year, Zhang said. The government also plans to expand the state student loan program to provide greater access to bank loans to students from low-income families. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told the National People's Congress in March that the improved financial assistance program will promote fairness in education.


(Xinhua News Agency May 22, 2007)

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