2008-07-26 01:46:43 GMT 2008-07-26 09:46:43 (Beijing Time) Xinhua English
BEIJING, July 26 (Xinhua) -- Poverty will no longer force students to drop out of colleges or universities, China's Education Ministry has pledged.
Every public college and university has opened a "green passage" to let poverty-stricken freshmen enroll and begin their studies before paying tuition fees, ministry spokeswoman Xu Mei has told a press conference.
This year's college and university enrollment is currently taking place.
Previously, all students had been required to pay tuition fees before commencing their studies.
More funds will be earmarked to assist students, especially those from areas hit by the May 12 earthquake, the spokeswoman was quoted Saturday by China Daily newspaper as saying.
By July 18, the China Education Development Foundation had received donations totaling 150 million yuan (22 million U.S. dollars) to assist education in quake-hit areas.
"So far, more than 55 million yuan has been spent on the living and education allowances of students in quake-hit areas in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces," Zhang Zhongyuan, secretary-general of the foundation, told the press conference.
"Plans to rebuild schools in the affected areas have been drawn up and reconstruction work will begin soon," Zhang said.
The donations will also cover the traveling expenses of students who have to study in other places due to the quake, he said.
The ministry printed 6 million booklets last month featuring its financial aid policy for students and has urged every college to attach it to each admission notice sent to would-be students.
The government has widened its financial aid system for students since May last year to provide more scholarships, stipends, student loans and emergency financial allowances for poverty-stricken students.
Students have also been offered campus work opportunities and free education in teachers' colleges, and tuition fees have been cut for students from special groups, such as the disabled or ethnic minorities.
The government spent 27.3 billion yuan last year to aid collegestudents, up 49 percent from the previous year, statistics showed.
Around one-fifth of the 20 million students studying at China'spublic and private universities last year were from poverty-stricken backgrounds, official figures showed.