Financial aid process evolves amid COVID-19 epidemic, challenges with floods

Zou Shuo
Updated: Oct 12,2021 06:56 AM    China Daily

Apart from its student loan program, China's financial aid package for college students consists of scholarships, grants, work-study programs, subsidies and tuition waivers. In the wake of COVID-19 and floods, the application process has been upgraded to enable more students to benefit.

A total of 240.8 billion yuan ($37 billion) in financial aid was allocated to students attending institutions from the kindergarten to the university level last year. Funds, which came from governmental and other sources, including university bursaries and endowments, were up 13.3 percent year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Education's National Center for Student Financial Aid.

The center said 2020 marked the 14th consecutive year that the amount had increased, and its data showed that more than 146 million students in China were offered financial aid last year.

The government-led student financial aid system aims to cover students from financially challenged households in both public and private schools.

Government expenditures on aid for students totaled 179.7 billion yuan last year, accounting for almost 75 percent of the total, the center said, adding that more than 36 million college students received a total of 124 billion yuan in financial aid last year.

To help students cope with financial difficulties caused by COVID-19 and flooding, the ministry has improved the online financial aid application process in several ways. For example, students had previously been required to submit written forms proving their financial status, but the system has been upgraded to allow forms to be sent electronically.

Education authorities and schools have also issued special subsidies and sent epidemic control and prevention equipment to students affected by outbreaks.
To help college students learn more about financial aid programs, the ministry opened hotlines in late June to deal with their inquiries and concerns.

This marks the 17th year in a row that hotlines have been opened, but this year, in addition to operating daily from 8 am to 8 pm during the summer vacation, hotlines will continue to run on normal working days from Sept 16, the ministry said.

Local education authorities and universities nationwide have also been required to open hotlines to provide information on financial aid.

Early last month, the ministry asked universities and colleges across the country to conduct thorough inspections into students affected by the epidemic and heavy rainfall.

In a notice, the ministry also said that the "green channel", a system that allows freshmen to register at higher institutions even if they are unable to pay their tuition fees in full, should be streamlined and made more effective, while still protecting privacy.

Local education authorities and universities should strengthen the promotion of the new national student loan policy — which includes raising the loan ceiling for college students by 4,000 yuan per year — and simplify the application process.

For students who run into extreme difficulties, education authorities and schools should offer emergency aid to cover living expenses, the notice stipulated.