The Chinese higher education system is the largest in the world. In recent decades, much of increase in student numbers has come from the country's rural population. The higher education system has provided rural youths with a new pathway to the city, but at the same time mechanisms within the system restrain rural students' mobility. Since education is viewed as a key ingredient for achieving social mobility, the distribution of educational resources has become a hot political topic. In this paper, based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork, I focus on rural-urban disparity in access to educational resources. I argue that in contrast to the popular narrative of “education for development”, the expansion of the Chinese higher education system has facilitated another wave of urban-rural resource extraction and works to perpetuate rural-urban hierarchies within in the city. In addition to describing these structural constraints, I pay attention to youths' response to and experience of these limitations. The paper paints a complicated picture of youths whose self confidence have taken a beating in the exam-oriented educated system, but who, at the same time, give it their all to be successful and fight themselves into urban society by means of their education. Finally, by analysing recent protests and discussions in China about the right to education, the paper emphasises the importance of education for the sense of urban citizenship.