Higher tuition fee bursaries for students from needy families
Starting next year, these students may see their tuition fees cut by more than half
Students from needy families can have their tuition fees cut by more than half, as the Government yesterday unveiled plans to increase tuition fee bursaries.
Kicking in next year, the enhanced bursaries will benefit about 55,000 students, 30,000 of whom come from the lowest 30 per cent of income levels.
Polytechnic students from the lowest 20 per cent of household income groups, who now pay about $550 a year with current bursaries, will pay about $150 after the enhanced bursaries, which covers about 95 per cent of their tuition fees.
University students studying for general degrees will pay about $2,000 a year with the new bursaries, down from the $4,200 they are paying now.
Tuition fees for a full-time general undergraduate degree in Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore come to about $8,200 a year.
At a press briefing yesterday, Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung said that a key reason for this move is that more needy students are progressing to universities or polytechnics after secondary school.
About 21 per cent of students in the lowest 30 per cent of household income groups progress to universities, compared with 13 per cent 15 years ago. About 52 per cent of students make it to polytechnics, compared with 38 per cent 15 years ago.
Mr Ong said: "These enhancements are part of the Government's continued efforts and our belief that one of the best investments that we can put in for Singapore is actually in our young, so that they can develop skills for the future and chart attractive careers for themselves."
The Government is expected to spend an additional $44 million on these enhancements, amounting to about a total of $167 million for bursaries a year.
Mr Ong also spoke about the reduction in school fees for full-time general courses for two of the newest universities in Singapore - the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).
Currently, the tuition fees for SIT come to $8,190, and those for SUSS to $7,860.
The fees for both schools will be lowered to $7,500, after consultations between MOE and the universities.
Mr Ong explained these schools are young applied universities, and the cost structure for them is lower than for the other universities.
He said: "They rely a lot more on practitioners from industries. Their courses tend to involve longer internships as well, and less working in labs, for example, students participating in research because they are high applied in nature."
He added that enrolment in these universities has also steadily risen, which would have reduced their cost.
About 80 per cent of SUSS students and about 20 per cent of SIT students will benefit from the reduction in fees. Most of SIT's courses are partnerships with other universities.
Singapore Management University final-year student Xu Jingru, 22, has been receiving bursaries throughout her time in university.
Her father is a bus captain, and her mother works in McDonald's, and they have to support Miss Xu and her elder sister, plus their two elderly parents, who suffer from chronic conditions.
While studying, Miss Xu said she has to take up different part-time jobs, from tutoring to working in a restaurant to help supplement the family income.
She said: "I just ended my internship and I'm taking a short break before working again. Without these bursaries, I think I would not have the luxury of doing so."
Low-income med, dentistry students to get more help with tuition fees
Needy students in medicine and dentistry will also have their tuition fees shaved off with the new enhanced bursaries, said Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung yesterday.
The increase in bursaries will range from $3,600 to as high as $20,700 a year.
Currently, about 11 per cent of medicine and dentistry students come from families in the lowest 30 per cent of household income.
Mr Ong said medicine and dentistry are the costliest undergraduate courses because of the way they are taught.
He said: "These are the costliest undergraduate courses because of labs, materials, and teachers required to teach the students. There is also a segment of their training that is expensive, which is their clinical attachments in hospitals."
Students who come from families in the lowest 20 per cent of household income will pay not more than $5,000 after government and university bursaries. With the current bursary, students from NUS pay $24,900 a year, while those at NTU pay $30,700 a year.
The tuition fees for a medicine or dentistry student at NUS is $28,900 a year, while the fees for an NTU medicine student is $34,700.
Said Mr Ong: "We want to make sure all of them can have sufficient support, and we do not deter students from low-income backgrounds from studying medicine and dentistry."
When Miss Sharen Asif, 18, received her acceptance letter into NUS medical school, she was equally elated and worried. Her father is a salesman and her mother is unemployed due to illness. She also has two younger siblings.
"I started thinking about how my family would pay for school because my father is the sole breadwinner. I wanted to give up my place and go for science instead because it is more affordable. But my family encouraged me to take the chance," she said.
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