Almost 8,000 rural youngsters in Tibet Autonomous Region passed college entrance exams and matriculated in 2013, the regional education authority announced on Saturday. The number accounts for 60 percent of the region's total higher education enrollment last year. "Farmers and herdsmen make up 80 percent of the population of Tibet's 3 million people. Their children have the same rights to higher education as urban students," said Ma Shengchang, director of the regional education department. He said that since 1985, free education for children of school age from farming and herding families in Tibet is accompanied with free food, lodging and subsidies. Since 2012, Tibet started to provide 15 years of free education from pre-school education to senior high school education, said Ma. Statistics from the department also revealed that there were 53,029 senior high school students in the region during the 2013-2014 academic year. "If they are willing to study hard and further their education after high school, they can attend universities and even key universities," said Ma.