Circular sparks objections online, with some calling guideline unfair
A circular issued on Tuesday by education authorities in Shaanxi province quickly attracted public attention as it laid down guidelines for judging whether college students come "from poor families" - a precondition for financial aid.
Students who rent apartments off campus or who go to internet bars frequently cannot be recognized as being impoverished and thus are not eligible to receive financial support from the government, according to the circular from the Education Department of the Shaanxi Provincial Government.
The circular was soon targeted by netizens as unreasonable and unfair. Some people argued that students who often go to internet bars might actually need financial aid the most, as they might be too poor to afford a laptop and have to finish their school assignments on computers in such businesses.
Others said the standard of "often" is vague and not helpful in determining whether a student is poor.
"How often is 'often'? The circular didn't elaborate on how many times," said a student counselor at Shaanxi University of Science and Technology who declined to be named. As internet bars are affordable for most students, many students go to them frequently, the counselor said.
In response, the department said on Wednesday that its off-campus housing standard refers to students who make the choice without a good reason, instead of living in a school dormitory. And it defended its internet bar standard.
"Often showing up in internet bars means a student is ignoring the internet facilities provided by the school and is likely engaging in nonacademic activities," the department told Beijing News.
A department staff member surnamed Luo said the internet is now available at almost all colleges in Shaanxi, and students' online needs can be met without leaving the dormitory.
"Under such circumstances, if students still go to internet bars frequently, we can be sure they are there to spend money playing computer games," he said. "The money should have been saved."
The circular also said the definition of a student from a poor family applies to those who are unable to pay for tuition and daily expenses at college even though they have tried their best to raise funds.
Students with extravagant consumption behavior, such as using a high-end mobile phone or laptop, using expensive cosmetics, wearing expensive clothes or traveling frequently, should not be classed as poor, it added.
The standards were for reference only, the circular said, and colleges in different cities of the province were free to apply their own standards depending on the local economy.