Chinese Students Worried as Universities Hike Fees
Universities around China are raising tuition fees for the first time in years to make up for reduced local government funding, triggering concerns among students.
At least eight universities in Shanghai have increased tuition fees in recent weeks. According to a notice on Sunday, the East China University of Science and Technology raised tuition fees by 54% to 7,700 yuan ($1,100) for first-year students majoring in science, engineering, and physical education, and by 30% to 6,500 yuan for liberal arts majors.
In May, Shanghai Dianji University announced a 40% fee increase for science and engineering students, and a 30% increase for management, economics, and literature students starting in the fall. These announcements come after Shanghai city authorities decided to raise benchmark tuition fees for the first time in 20 years after a public hearing in April.
Universities in other provinces also raised tuition fees earlier this year as local governments approved increases to benchmark tuition fees. According to domestic media reports, several universities in the southwestern Sichuan province have increased fees by over 40% for some subjects.
Universities in China are facing mounting financial challenges amid rising operational expenditures and decreasing funding from local governments. The Ministry of Education has announced a fall of 3.7% in funding for the tertiary education sector this year. In October, news of several prestigious universities canceling certain student scholarships led to public backlash.
Unlike the United States, the vast majority of Chinese universities are public and largely dependent on state funding. According to Qingta, a Hangzhou-based consultancy specializing in higher education, just under half of China’s top 127 universities have more than 30% of their income coming from the state, with the proportion exceeding 70% for 11 universities.
Higher education is not compulsory in China. Despite the fee hikes, higher education in China is still much cheaper than places like the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
In its April notice, the Shanghai government said the tuition fee hike is needed “to build a better cost-sharing mechanism.” In 2021, education authorities in Sichuan said that the “extreme unbalance” between state funding and tuition fees, unchanged since 2004, has severely restricted universities’ development.
The fee hikes have attracted public attention as students worry about the increasing financial burden of higher education. “It is unreasonable to get students to make up for increased costs,” Pan Shengyu, a junior at Shanghai University majoring in math, told Sixth Tone. His university has also raised tuition fees for first-year students starting in the fall.
Another student surnamed Tan, a materials science student at the South China University of Technology in Guangdong province, agrees that it is unfair to push the increased financial burdens on to students. “If the rise in tuition fees is because of (rising costs), why not start working on a more effective education system by cutting some unnecessary courses?” she said.
For Tongji University graduate student Sun, work experience is becoming more important for finding a good job after she graduates, as she sees more of her peers receiving higher education. Nonetheless, she believes companies will still want graduates from the best universities.
“Education is still worth it these days as an ‘admission ticket,’ but it certainly isn’t all-powerful like it was before,” she said.
Additional reporting: Yang Caini. Editor: Vincent Chow.
(Header image: VCG)