Using data from the 2004 China College Student Survey, conducted by the author, this paper finds that long-term factors such as scholastic ability and parental education are significantly correlated with higher education attendance. By contrast, short-term financial constraints are also significantly associated with higher education access, but to a lesser degree. Furthermore, in recent years China’s higher education expansion has provided broader access to students from lower income families. However, the tuition fees and “net prices” of elite universities are lower than those of medium quality universities, while the tuition fees and “net prices” of medium quality universities are lower than those of relatively low quality universities and colleges. This has led to a reverse relationship between family income and attendance costs, such that lower income families now shoulder a much higher burden for their childrens’ university education than higher income families.
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