Many Chinese colleges and universities are owed millions of yuan because students are unable to, or choose not to, pay back tuition loans, the Ministry of Education said on Monday.
"We have found that many universities and colleges have several million yuan of defaulted tuition fees, some have nearly a billion," Cui Bangyan, a senior ministry official said at a press conference in Beijing.
Cui said that the average annual tuition charge for one college student on the Chinese mainland has remained between 4,000 and 4,500 yuan (US$513 and US$577) since 2000, but some majors, particularly at prestigious universities, could cost far more.
"Even the average 4,000 to 4,500 yuan can be a heavy burden for a student coming from some rural, remote or minority regions," Cui said, noting that a college student may spend more than 10,000 yuan a year including tuition, accommodation and other costs.
Cui also said some students pretend they can not afford to pay back the loans or make up excuses as to why they can not clear their debts.
In 1999, China's education authority increased the size of the enrolment to its higher educational institutions, allowing around 5 million students to go to college each year.
Loans are available to poor students and the government pays the interest on the loan, which has to be paid back in full before graduation.
"Paying tuition on time is an obligation of every college student," Cui said, "if he or she can't afford it, the college, government and the ministry will help him to finish his or her studies."
"Government aid does not mean a free higher education," he affirmed.
"College students should be honest when applying for a grant or loan, Cui said.
(Xinhua News Agency July 3, 2007)