A total of 200 billion yuan (US$26 billion) in debts owed by
Chinese universities should not be regarded as "serious" and is
only a "special problem in the country's education development,"
the Education Minister said today.
The debts, which the National Development and Reform Commission
said have affected the operation of some schools, are not
mainstream problems or that serious as some people have assumed,
education minister Zhou Ji explained at a news conference in
Beijing this morning.
But corruption, mismanagements and extravagance were involved in
some of the debts, Zhou admitted, without further elaboration.
Universities across China have taken out 200 billion yuan in
bank loans since the country started college expansions in
The expansion, aimed at sharply increasing student enrollment to
promote higher education, led to numerous infrastructure projects
among Chinese universities—mostly funded by loans from banks.
These infrastructure projects now have an estimated value of
more than 500 billion yuan given the country's booming real estate
industry, Zhou said.
A survey by Peking University showed that 76 state-owned schools
owed banks a total of 33.6 billion yuan, or 440 million yuan on
average in 2005, a number which is growing 76 percent a year.
The debts accounted for 51.1 percent of the schools' revenues,
which totaled 65.67 billion yuan.
Zhou added that the government will allocate more subsidies from
fiscal budgets to help universities solve their financial
The central government will ask banks to change some short term
loans into long-term debt to give a break to indebted universities
while selling part of the land owned by the schools is another
Land sales would be a reasonable choice to offset the financial
crisis at Jilin University, the biggest university in China by area
of school size, Zhou noted.
The university, a key school in China's northwestern Changchun
City, came into the spotlight after the authorities posted a letter
on its Website on March 19 revealing its financial problems.
The letter read that the school is almost three billion yuan in
debt after having built eight branch campuses across China since
The university has to pay up to 170 million yuan a year in
interest payments alone to banks for the loans it borrowed to build
these branches, which are home to more than 63,000 students, the
However, Zhou said that the university expansions were necessary
as they may play an important role in the country's future
China last year recruited 5.4 million college freshmen, five
times the number in 1998 while the university admittance rate also
climbed to 23 percent, making higher education accessible for more
people, Zhou added.
(Shanghai Daily September 12, 2007)