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Fresh lending plan aids collegians
By Qin Chuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-01 01:23

By the end of June, more than 800,000 college students from low-income families have become the beneficiaries of a student loan programme that started in 1999.

To date, the programme has offered loans of 5.2 billion yuan (US$628 million), Vice Minister of Education Zhang Baoqing said yesterday.

While higher education is experiencing rapid development in China, the number of college students from poverty-stricken families has also been increasing.

Currently there are about 2.4 million such students, accounting for 20 per cent of the total number.

Under the programme, poor students can apply for and get loans from banks. They repay the loans over a certain period after they graduate and find jobs.

During the process, the government grants a certain subsidy to pay off loan interest.

With the programme being improved this year, Zhang and other officials from the People's Bank of China, the China Banking Regulatory Commission and the Ministry of Finance appear confident the programme will be better managed to benefit additional students.

One of the improvements is that banks can receive compensation funds, which are provided by both the government and universities. Before, banks had to bear almost all the costs and risks themselves.

Under the improved programme, banks can decide whether they want to do business according to calculations of possible profit, costs and risks.

National and provincial centres for the management of student loans will be set up to strengthen the co-ordination between lending banks and universities -- an area that was problematic before.

In addition, repayment terms have been extended from the previous four years to six years after graduation. And students can start to repay one or two years after graduation if they fail to find jobs.

With these improvements, the programme will be implemented better, said Vice President of the People's Bank of China Wu Xiaoling.

After years of efforts, China has implemented a series of policies that help poor students to attend universities.

Various scholarships have been set up by the central and local governments, as well as universities.

Statistics show Chinese universities granted 3.3 billion yuan (US$399 million) of scholarships last year, aiding 4.5 million college students.

Universities also organize students from poor families to do paid work on campus. Last year 1.5 million students benefited from that.

Another noticeable scheme is termed "green access," which means that newly enrolled students from poor families must be registered first even if they cannot pay tuition at the time.

After the registration, various aid measures will be offered to the students accordingly.

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