Chinese Universities Are “Blood Sucking” Universities

January 29, 2006 Updated: January 29, 2006

Many people talk of China's rural-urban divide and the immense hardships suffered by villagers under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party, yet such realities are difficult to understand without context. I am thus sharing my story with you so as to shine light on the situation of those from rural areas that have lead lives similar to my own. There are millions who lead lives like myself, and even more who are not so fortunate.

I was born in an impoverished small village surrounded by mountains in rural China. Our family had only about one hectare's land on a mountain, which hardly produced anything no matter how hard we worked throughout the year. For as far back as I can remember, my parents have labored on the land endlessly for the whole year each year, with only one day off on Chinese New Year's Day. All other days were spent working. Despite this, our annual income was less than 1000 yuan (US$124). We could only afford to eat meat once a year, and to buy new clothing once every several years. My parents had thought about going to the outside world to look for a job, but my grandparents were ill to the extent that they couldn't relieve their bowels on their own. So it was impossible for them to leave,

The school fees charged by my primary and junior middle schools were not a major burden on my family, yet the expenses of my senior high school and university were enough to drive my family into despair. After I entered senior high school, the school fee and living expenses was as much as 3000 yuan ($372) per year. Where could we get so much money?

Moreover, my sister was also in school and needed money as well. We also had taxes to pay, which amounted to as much as 2000 yuan ($248) per year. Faced with this, we had no other choice but to borrow money.

When borrowing money, the local interest rate was as high as 26 percent, which meant that we had to pay 6000 yuan ($744) of interest and principal for a loan of 5000 yuan ($620). It wouldn't have been such a problem if we could have afforded it, but we couldn't afford it whatsoever.

The regulation was that you must pay off your debt within three months; otherwise you will have to pay additional interest for the newly produced interest. So after three years, with interest produced upon interest, the loan roared up to 20,000 yuan ($2,480). Even prior to 1949, during the Kuomintang's rule, the interest was never as high as that. The banks we borrow money from are the state-owned banks, such as the Agricultural Bank of China and the collectively owned Rural Credit Union.

Frankly speaking, I could have gone to Guangdong Province to look for a job to ease the burden for the family, just like 80 percent of the people in our village had done, but my parents wanted me to go to college, even if it brought them to bankruptcy. Both of my parents finished senior high school, but neither of them had the opportunity to go college when they were young, so this was something that meant a lot to them. They hoped that the debt problems would be resolved soon after I graduated. The most important thing for them was that I didn't end up repeating their fate of working endlessly without any gain.

So I went to the capital city of the province to study at a university. After my grandmother passed away, my 50-year-old father also went to the city to “carry the building,” which means to unload and then carry construction materials on one's back to a building with up to or more than ten levels. Our annual tuition fee was several thousand yuan, which was again too much for us. The government talked about student loans, but when put into practice, “the wind never brought any rain.” I have never received any benefit from the state. Instead, after four years time, I accumulated a debt of 20,000 yuan ($2,480).

My family could only cover part of my living expenses, so in order to survive I had to clean classrooms, work as a waiter, and trade mobile phone SIM cards. I didn't have the money to start the business, so I borrowed some from my classmates. After I earned a little profit, I would immediately repay them, yet I had to continually borrow money in order to continue the business. In the end, what I earned almost equated to nothing compared with the enormous tuition fee.

Over those four long years, I had never enjoyed myself, gone to parties or dated like those who came from rich families. I only hoped that my university days could end as soon as possible so that I could go to find a job and ease my family's burden. I didn't want my parents to suffer more for me as they were already every elderly.

Unfortunately, even this small wish was not realized. As I was approaching graduation, I was notified by the university that I couldn't be given the graduation certificate as I hadn't yet paid off my debt. Despite my repeated plea and promise of paying off my debts in two or three years, the university not only refused to write me a letter to acknowledge that I completed the required courses for my degree, they also took away my ID card and other important papers .

In my deepest dismay, the manager of a famous company in southern China asked me to work for them. I continue to work there now and am very grateful for the opportunity. I cannot imagine what my life would have been with my debts and without a graduation certification. The company has very strict regulations and no one can be employed without a graduation certificate. The manager was very kind to me. So I was hired as an “unofficial” employee.

The “official” employees' salary was 1000 yuan ($124) more than mine; and they were given shares and bonuses as well. Their annual income equates to dozens of years of work for my family. I am not allowed to receive shares or bonuses and as an “unofficial” employee, I can only have a salary of about 1000 yuan a month.

Initially, I lived very far from the company and had to pay more than 100 yuan ($12.4) for my bus ticket. Later on I've rented a room near the company for about 200 yuan ($24.8) a month. You can imagine what a bad room it must be at the price of 200 yuan in an expensive city like Guangzhou. I walk to my work everyday and eat at the company as much as I can since the company offers free meals. Even so, I can only save 1000 yuan per month. I owe the university 22,000 yuan ($2,728), so it will take me 22 months to pay off my debt. If anything unexpected happens, I will need about three years to pay off the debt. That is to say, during the three years, I'll have to work as much as everyone else, but with a much smaller salary. I can think of nothing else except paying off my debt. Only after three more years can I become officially employed.

My youth is thus buried by debt-repaying. I dare not dream about marriage as I do not have the condition and I dare not dream about owning a house of my own like the ordinary residents of Guanzhou, as I do not have the money. Furthermore, I dare not I dream about driving around this city in my own car. I believe that harboring any such dreams will only lead to disappointment. In the coming years, I will need to help my family to pay off the debt and help my sister, who will go to that “blood sucking” university next year. As poor villagers, we have no other ways to change our fate other than going to “blood sucking” universities.

People say that I am a very introverted person, which is true, but I do not want to appear so introverted. I want to exhibit the same young blood exhibited by other young people at my age. However, in the face of endless pressure, my poor parents, and a huge debt, I can't be happy and laugh. I can hardly even speak. All I can do is do my job well, with my head hanging low.

I hope that all of my poor fellow villagers will not continue to suffer this utter poverty, and I hope that the policy makers of the CCP's educational department can find a way out for the rural children and give them hope to live on.

Rural children, where is your way out?