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Education Ministry Opens Hotline for Poor College Students

China's education watchdog has opened a 24-hour hotline for students who want to go to university but cannot afford the tuition fees.

The hotline would be operated from Friday to Sept. 15, the Ministry of Education said on its website.

Parents and students can ring in to learn about the country's financial aid programs targeted at college freshmen with financial difficulties and report universities which failed to implement these programs, according to the ministry.

The ministry pledged earlier this year that the government would ensure no students drop out of colleges or universities because of poverty.

Every public college and university has opened a "green passage" to let poverty-stricken first years enroll and begin their studies before paying tuition fees.

More funds will be earmarked to assist students, especially those from areas hit by the May 12 earthquake.

China's new term in college usually starts from the end of August or early September each year.

Previously, all students had been required to pay tuition fees before commencing their studies.

The ministry printed 6 million booklets in June 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 poor 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 college students, up 49 percent from the previous year, statistics showed.

Around one-fifth of the 20 million students studying at China's public and private universities last year were from poverty-stricken backgrounds, official figures showed.

The hotline numbers are 086-10-66097980 and 66096590.

(Xinhua News Agency August 16, 2008)

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