More than 2.8 million students are studying in China's privately-run universities, according to the Ministry of Education (MOE).
The number consists of 1.34 million students studying in 278 privately-run independent universities, which normally provide junior college diplomas, and 1.47 million studying for undergraduate degrees in 318 private colleges affiliated to public universities, said MOE official Han Jin.
Private college students account for about 11 percent of the country's 25 million university students.
After the adoption of Private Education Promotion Law which grants equal legal status to private-funded and public education systems in 2003, private universities had developed rapidly with the support of local governments, Han said.
In the last 20 years, the Chinese government had encouraged privately-run colleges to help accommodate students who failed the public university entrance exams.
Many privately-run colleges charge fees two or three times higher than state universities as they receive no financial support from the government.
They usually have a more market-driven curriculum that enables them to train practical personnel for the job market.
A survey by an employment advisory agency under the MOE showed the employment rate of private college graduates is higher than that of state university graduates, but they make less money, with an average monthly income of about 1,550 yuan (194 U.S. dollars).