Going To University In China

It is one thing to get good entrance examination marks and get accepted, but can you afford to go?

Here are the basic numbers via a post at Yannan:

[translation]  According to the China Youth Daily, the Jilin Provincial Government Research Center conducted a study of students at a senior secondary school in a rural county.  28.7% of the students said that they were afraid of attending university, because their family cannot afford the university fees.

According to the study by the Jilin Provincial Government Research Center, in 2004, the average university tuition fee was 6,000 RMB, the average room charge was 1,000 RMB and the average food expenses was 4,800 RMB.  Combining the three items, university students need 11,800 RMB whereas the average net income for Jilin rural residents was 3,000.42 RMB.  That is to say, each university student requires the net income of four rural peasants.

The report emphasized that tremendous pressure from the university tuition is the biggest reason for rural students being afraid to attend university.  But this author believes that the uncertain earnings is the true reason for rural students not wanting to attend university.  According to economic theory, expected benefits directly determines investment confidence.  If attending university is a form of investment, then what are the expected benefits?  Of course, it is more than a piece of paper that is a diploma; it has to be the benefits that the student will receives after getting a job.

The data indicates that the employment situation for university graduates are not optimistic.  In 2002, the number of university graduates was 1,450,000; in 2003, 2,120,000; in 2004, 2,800,000; in 2005, 3,400,000.  With the continuous increase in the number of graduates, the job situation is getting tougher and tougher.  Not only does the competition for jobs increase, but the salaries are going down.  In 2004, the starting salaries for university students were 25% to 30% lower than the previous year.  According to a Beijing University study, the average university students has a monthly salary of only 1,550.7 RMB, of which 40.9% made less than 1,000 RMB and 45.5% made between 1,000-2,000 RMB.  The phrase "no salary job" is become fashionable.

The difficulty in finding a job and the reduced salary directly reduces the expected benefits of a university education, and this affects investment confidence.  This is all the more true for low-income families.  In order to increase investment confidence, there was two factors.  The first is to reduce the amount of investment; that is, to reduce the tuition.  The second is to increase the benefits.  There is not much hope to improve these two factors.  The university tuition was free when the nation was founded and increased to a symbolic 200 RMB in 1998.  The 11,800 RMB mentioned in the report represented a trend of non-stop sharp increases.  Although this trend has been questioned by many, the trend is towards even sharper increases.  As for the benefits?  Many universities attempt to attract students by publishing the employment rates for their graduates, but those figures are tainted by exaggerations and inflation when compared to other data.  The information, is that the number of employed students will hold steady at 2,500,000 and this means that it will be difficult to raise the expectations for getting jobs.  As for the salary, it is in direct proportion to the employment rate.  If employment is low, the companies have enough human resources already and people should be glad not to have their salaries cut.

According to this, it will be hard to make the rural students not be afraid to go to university.

The preceding is all very true, but somehow numbers leave me stone cold.  Perhaps that is a good thing, since I am a statistician by profession and therefore maintaining a cool head is important.   As a sentient person, though, I am more likely to be moved by something as sugary as in this previous post Why The Visitors From Beijing Cried At The Sight Of The Bottle Of Remy Martin.  As it turns out, there is another post also at Yannan that works at the personal level:


Name: Yang Xiaojuan
University Entrance Examination Marks: 611
University Accepted: Sichuan University

"Dad and Mom, I have managed to be accepted by Sichuan University.  You can smile from your graves."  Yang Xiaojuan took the letter of acceptance from the Sichuan University and knelt in front of her parents' graves for one full hour.  Yang Xiaojuan is an unfortunate child.  When she entered junior secondary school, her mother passed away from a nerve infection; during the summer of her second year in high school, her dad passed away after suffering more than 20 years from brain blood clot.

"Buy a newspaper!  Buy a newspaper!"  Yesterday morning at 10am, our reporter found Yang Xiaojuan near the bus depot selling newspaper.  Although she was accepted for Sichuan University with a high mark of 611, she was in no mood to celebrate because the more than 10,000 RMB in tuition fees did not make her happy.  "I know that I can't earn too much each day, but something is more than nothing.  Not matter what, I want to fulfill my parents' last wishes."  Yang Xiaojuan told the reporter.

Yang Xiaojuan is currently staying at her aunt's place.  On July 30, 2004, her dad passed away and her aunt became her guardian.  Her aunt told the reporter that both she and her husband were laid off in 2000 and they are temporary workers trying to make enough money to get by.  They tried to borrow money from their relatives and friends for Yang Xiaojuan, but most others are out of work with children.  So far, they have borrowed only 1,000 RMB or so.

Yang Xiaojuan told the reporter that her father had a blood clot in the brain in 1983 and became paralyzed.  This meant that her mother was the sole income earner.  Her mother not only had to take care of her dad, but she had to earn money for his medical care as well as feel the family.  In 1998, when she entered junior secondary school, her mom developed a nerve infection from overworking and died six months later.  When Yang Xiaojuan spoke of her mother, tears came down her face.

In July 2004, Yang Xiaojuan returned home and found her father dead in the bed.  After her dad passed away, all the friends and relatives went through the house and finally found 600 RMB underneath the tea table with the words: "This money is left for Xiaojuan's university tuition."  Yang Xiaojuan said that this money is untouched so far, as the funeral expenses were contributed by friends and family.

The family misfortunes motivated Yang Xiaojuan to study hard.  At the university entrance examination this year, Yang Xiaojuan was accepted by Sichuan University with 611 marks.  On the day when she received the notification, Yang Xiaojuan told her parents in the first instant.  But the high tuition fees made her cry against and again.  After all, she is still student and many places do not want students who only work while not in school.  Yang Xiaojuan could not find any work, so she is selling newspapers every day.