Nearly 100 million students will receive government subsidies this year, according to the Ministry of Education (MOE). Last year, 95.9 million students received subsidies of 886.4 billion yuan ($129.2 billion), increasing by 22 percent and 92 percent, respectively, against 2011.
However, whether or not the subsidies have been distributed to the students who need them most has always been a controversial issue. Therefore, accurately identifying students from impoverished families is the key to ensuring the proper use of government funds.
Previously, university students who applied for subsidies were required to fill out a form about their families' financial situation and have it stamped by the local civil affairs bureau. A panel made up of student instructors, head teachers and student representatives decided whether an applicant was qualified to receive the grant based on the form and other factors. However, there are loopholes in the practice as students could fake their financial situation and still be verified by the local civil affairs bureau, while the panel could be subjective in its judgment.
The MOE is working with other government departments to mull over measures to improve accuracy in identifying financially strapped students by placing more emphasis on objective data. Many universities in China have carried out experiments in this regard. For instance, the Nanjing University of Science and Technology analyzes students' dining card records. It identifies those who dine more than 60 times per month at the school canteen, but spend less than 420 yuan ($61.2) in total as impoverished.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article originally published in Beijing Youth Daily on September 7)