The Ministry of Education will spend 50 billion yuan (US$6.5 billion) this year to help students from poor families.
The money will come from the budgets of central and local governments. It will go toward the setting of national scholarships, stipends and student loans to ensure these students can continue their education, ministry spokesman Wang Xuming said yesterday.
The funds will cover more than 20 percent of college students and 90 percent of vocational students.
Most students in vocational schools come from the rural areas, and their financial situations are worse than college students, Wang said.
"As the new semester begins in September, students from poor families will find the road to higher learning much smoother," Wang said.
More than 4 million college students and 16 million vocational students will benefit annually, he said.
To guarantee fair distribution of the funds, high achieving students will each receive an annual scholarship of 8,000 yuan, students from poor families with high marks and good character will each receive an annual 5,000 yuan national supportive scholarship, and ordinary students will each receive a stipend of 2,000 yuan a year.
In vocational schools, students from poor families will each receive an annual stipend of 1,500 yuan.
It is expected that 5.7 million students will enter colleges and universities, and about eight million, vocational schools this year.
China's institutes of higher learning are one of most expensive in the world relative to per capita GDP, said Liu Shouren, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Annual tuition fees have increased to more than 5,000 yuan, about 10 times that of a decade ago, and incomes have not kept pace.
According to a report last year by the China Youth Development Center, education was the No 1 expense of a family.
About 33 percent of a rural family's yearly income went on education, while the figure is about 23 percent for urban families.
(China Daily July 3, 2007)