The Ministry of Education (MOE) held a press conference on August 30 to review the performance of student financial assistance programs over the last decade. Xu Mei, director-general of the MOE Information Office and spokesperson for the ministry, moderated the event. Guo Peng, director-general of the MOE Department of Finance, presented a report at the conference.
According to Guo, China’s current student financial assistance programs are mainly funded by the government, with schools and private entities also providing some funding. Most financial assistance is offered with no strings attached. Recipients are mainly economically disadvantaged students and some are students with excellent academic performance. The central government has launched 28 student financial assistance programs, providing more than RMB 260 billion to 150 million students per year. Over the past decade, total funding for China’s student financial assistance programs was more than RMB 2 trillion. In addition, annual funding has doubled, from RMB 132.2 billion in 2012 to RMB 266.8 billion in 2021.
Guo said MOE and the Ministry of Finance have made great efforts over the last decade to increase financial assistance for students at all levels. For example, meal subsidies for rural students in elementary and junior high school have been increased from RMB 3 to RMB 5 per student per day. National student grants for regular junior and senior high school students have been increased from RMB 1,500 to RMB 2,000 per student per year. The national standard for grants to doctoral and postgraduate students has been raised to RMB 3,000 and the national standard for grants to undergraduate students and junior college students has been raised from RMB 3,000 to RMB 3,300 per student per year. The maximum amount of national student loans an undergraduate or junior college student can borrow has increased from RMB 6,000 to RMB 12,000 and the maximum amount for a postgraduate student is RMB 16,000.
Guo said robust student assistance programs have laid a solid foundation for improving the quality of China’s human resources. These programs not only support education for economically disadvantaged students but also improve students’ lives and health. China’s meal plans provide benefits to 123,800 rural elementary and junior high schools and 350 million students. Data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that the average height of male and female students in areas covered by meal plans increased by 4.2 cm and 4.1 cm, respectively, between 2012 and 2021. This is faster than the average growth rate for rural students nationwide. In 2021, 2.5% of rural students in central and western China had stunted growth, a decrease of 5.5 percentage points from 2012.
Thanks to a number of student assistance programs, secondary vocational schools, normal schools and a number of less-popular majors like agriculture, forestry, geology, mining and petroleum engineering have attracted more students. Tens of thousands of normal school graduates have chosen to work in rural schools, thus remarkably improving the teaching workforce in rural areas. By 2021, 660,000 college graduates who had received financial assistance were working in local-level government bodies and 1.43 million college graduates who had received financial assistance had joined the army. At the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, 91% of university volunteers were receiving financial assistance.