Universities accused of failing to provide enough information on national loans The Ministry of Education lashed out at the media yesterday, accusing it of writing sob stories about poor students, encouraging them to bank on donations rather than apply for national loans. Ministry spokesman Wang Xuming called on the media to spread the word about China's policies to aid poor students rather than writing stories about the plight of impoverished students to attract contributions from the public. Mr Wang cited one report from an unnamed source that described university admission letters as a mixed blessing for impoverished students. 'The authors of such a report either know little about our aid efforts or have an ulterior negative motive,' he said. Mr Wang said a few media outlets dwelt on sob stories to generate sales, but that obsession distorted the true picture. 'If you give [those students] an inappropriately high profile, it is against the reality and policies of our government and party,' he said. 'As a result, some students even sit around and wait for media reports to help them get donations. They think donations are better than national loans because they do not have to pay back donations. Such thinking is really irresponsible,' Mr Wang said. The spokesman did not quantify the number of students appealing for donations, but educators and sociologists said the number had to be small. Zhou Hongling , dean of the Beijing New Era Citizen Education Centre, said the ministry should not blame the reports, and community and non-governmental organisation contributions were important to students. 'The application process for national loans is still not smooth. Formalities are complicated. In local universities, especially private ones, full financial aid is still not realised. In that case, calling for public donations helps students go to school,' Mr Zhou said. The ministry said it had received 844 calls in eight days after launching a hotline on August 15 to answer questions about China's education aid policies. More than 46 per cent of the callers complained that universities did not do a good job of informing would-be students about these policies and did not implement them well. The remaining callers asked for information on policy details. The South China Morning Post reported last month that a Shanxi father had committed suicide because he could not afford to pay for his son, a star student, to go to university. The family said they had no idea that their son could have applied for a national loan because they had no access to newspapers or online sources of information. Donations from Post readers will ensure that the student gets a tertiary education. Beijing Institute of Technology humanities professor Hu Xingdou said readers' donations were a reflection of the public's concern about the widening wealth gap on the mainland, and that media reports were not the problem. 'The big gap is a reality. The government has no way to cover that up,' Professor Hu said.