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State Student Loan Helps, But More Needed
The start of a new school year will see tens of thousands of freshmen joining Chinese college campuses. But many of them will have great difficulty paying their tuition fees. For them, student loans issued by state-owned commercial banks are a good solution. The Ministry of Education says the three-year-old program has already yielded good results but more work lies ahead.

The money may not be much but it is timely support for students struggling to finance their college education.

The loans, known as the State Student Loan, offer a student up to 6,000 yuan (some US$700) a year. There is no requirement of a guarantee and the recipient can take eight years to pay the debt. The government also helps by paying half the interest. Because of this, these loans are particularly appealing to needy students.

At a press briefing Tuesday, officials from the Ministry of Education said over the past three years, some 350,000 college students have benefited from loans totaling US$360 million . However, the number still falls far short of overall demand.

"In spite of these achievements, student loans remain confined to a small scale. Therefore a priority task in the next few years is to promote the program within universities across the country," said Zhang Guangming, deputy director of Center for Student Loans.

It is estimated that students in need of loans make up 15 to 20 percent of the total college population. This makes the present number of 350,000 recipients vastly inadequate.

But the Ministry says it will make every effort to close the gap by the end of the year. The Ministry has worked out an examination system together with the People's Bank of China. This system will see to it that the four major commercial banks responsible for the program will carry it out in good faith.

With the rapid increase of the number of Chinese receiving higher education, the number of those unable to afford to pay for study is also on the rise. The current program, if successfully realized, will be a major contribution to ongoing reforms in higher education.

(cctv.com August 29, 2002)

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