Acceptance to an institution of higher education in China is highly competitive and only accessible to students that earn the highest gaokao scores (college entrance exam, similar to the SAT in the United States). Colleges and universities in China determine which students they will accept based only on their gaokao scores. For many living in China, the pressure of getting accepted to the best universities drive students to apply to top rated universities that they may not be interested in or apply to universities that have lower gaokao score requirements so they can increase their chances of being accepted.
In China, institutions that are operated by the government are considered to be of higher quality than privately owned colleges and universities. Government owned universities have first choice at the students who have scored the highest on the gaokao exam. Students who are unable to get into the prominent government universities view attendance at private institutions as a last resort.
Many private institutions are located in or near Xi'an (Sian, postal map spelling), the capital of the Shaanxi province in the People's Republic of China. The city of Xi'an is home to many of the most important cultural, industrial and educational centers in China and is known for its strong research and development facilities and China's space exploration program.
Xi'an has offered liberal tax exemptions to private colleges and universities in order to encourage the development of world class educational systems. Private institutions have provided the government with a means to increase the supply of post-secondary educational facilities to meet an overwhelming demand for post-secondary education.
Approximately 25 million students in China pay an average of $400 to $2,200 a year in tuition (Includes instruction, room/board, and meals) to attend public and private institutions. The rates at China's private institutions vary greatly and many times surpass the average of $2,200. For example, to attend the University of Nottingham in Ningbo students pay $9,000 a year; this may be contributed to the earned degree being from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, a highly respected educational institution.
In comparison to tuition in China, Genesse Community College (2-year, public college) of Batavia, New York advertised in 2009 that the college would not increase tuition costs and tuition would remain at $1700 per semester for full time students and part-time student tuition costs would continue at $140 per credit hour.
Tuition costs in the United States, as compared to China, are more than 50% higher for students attending a public, open admission college. Tuition fees at Genesse Community College are at the very low end of the spectrum for public colleges in the United States.
The average cost for an undergraduate student to attend a four-year public university in the United States is approximately $6,500 per year and extends to greater than $12,000 per year with these costs covering only instructional costs. Less than 2% of public institutions in the United States have tuition fees of less than $3,000 per year. The lowest tuition costs in the United States can be found in two-year public colleges in the West, with the lowest tuition costs starting at $1,500 per year. However, fees for non-resident students are greater as they are required to pay additional non-resident fees. Tuition costs for private institutions of higher education in the United States are generally much more expensive than tuition rates in public or state owned colleges and universities. Lower tuition rates are found in two-year community colleges as compared to four-year colleges.
Comparison of university tuition costs in China and the United States would not be meaningful if the cost of living in China was not addressed. In China, a decent sized, furnished, two bedroom apartment would cost between $290 and $370 per month. Transportation in China, for students living on campus (99% of students live on campus) range from $0.15 for a trolley, $0.75 for a taxi to travel locally and between $2 and $5 to travel up to an hour away by bus or taxi. Food costs are typically $150 per month when preparing meals with supermarket foods. Electricity and water run about $45.00 a month and cable internet services cost approximately $110 per year. Local cell phone usage costs less than $30 per month. The cost of living in China is minimal compared to expenses that a college student would incur while living in the United States.
China opened their higher education system up to private and independent higher education providers in 1998, in an effort to expand their ability to provide post-secondary education to the millions of Chinese students that did not have access to tertiary educational services.
China's educational system has experienced much growth; however during the world's economic recession more than 2 million college graduates in China are unable to find employment. China's response to extraordinarily high rates of unemployed college graduates is to expand postgraduate educational opportunities in an effort to minimize the overwhelming excess of recent and new graduates.
To repair the labor market conditions, China's post-secondary education system will be forced to deliver programs that better prepare graduates for occupations that are in high demand. At the present time China is experiencing an overabundance of accounting and language graduates and a vast disparity of graduates who have the specialized skills that prepare them to work as experts in highly specialized fields.