SINGAPORE: Staying on campus at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has become costlier for undergraduates as hall rental fees have increased sharply over the past few years.
Since 2009, the cost of staying in a non air-conditioned double room has risen from about S$155 a month per person to about S$245. The monthly rental for an air-conditioned single room has also risen, from S$280 to S$395 over the same period. It costs about S$425 for a similar room at a new hall.
The local university has 18 Halls of Residence which house more than 40 per cent of its undergraduates.
Explaining the increase, Associate Professor Kwok Kian Woon, associate provost for student life, told Channel NewsAsia that the adjustments are to defray higher operating costs.
“The rates are adjusted by about 4 per cent annually to partially defray the inflationary costs of operating the halls, and ensure that students continue to enjoy quality accommodation that meets their needs,” said Prof Kwok.
He added that there are various financial assistance schemes such as bursaries to help needy students in their hall accommodation.
Students that Channel NewsAsia spoke to had mixed views about the higher fees.
First-year NTU engineering student Teo Wang Wei said the rates remain acceptable. “Compared to outside, the price is reasonable because if you are staying outside, normally the price will be S$300 something or S$400 something,” said the 22-year-old. “We are provided with a room, a table to study and the atmosphere is good,” he added.
However, Ms Jeevithra Gunasegaran, a first-year chemistry student at NTU, does not think that the price increases are necessary. “I don’t see the reason why they have to increase it every semester. For what? When there are no upgrades done. They are not building extra toilets … nothing,” she said.
NTU Student Union president Gabriel Chee said the union recognises that the increased hall rates are in line with the facilities improvement and upgrading such as increased security across all the halls.
He added that the union constantly gathers feedback from the students to ensure it is aware of their concerns.
“Each hall has elected student leaders and representatives to reflect the students’ needs as well. Together, we hold regular discussions with the University Administration to ensure hall rates remain reasonable and affordable for our undergraduates,” said Mr Chee.
HIGHER HALL FEES AT NUS, SMU
Singapore’s other universities have also implemented increases. At the National University of Singapore (NUS), where about 8,600 undergraduates stay on campus, a standard single room at NUS costs about S$400 to S$540 a month between 2011 and 2013. These rates have been adjusted upwards since 2014, and the monthly rental for a single room now costs about S$440 to S$580. A double room costs about S$20 more, at S$300 a month per person.
“A modest adjustment in 2014 was necessary to help mitigate higher operating costs,” an NUS spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia, with cyclical maintenance and repair work being highlighted as key factors. The spokesperson added that measures such as bulk purchases of services were also adopted to ensure operating costs are kept low.
“The University reviews the room rates of on-campus accommodation periodically to ensure that rates remain affordable for students.”
The Singapore Management University (SMU) will raise its hostel fees in the upcoming academic year for the 260 students who can stay on campus. Monthly rentals for its single and double rooms at Prinsep Street will cost about S$643 and S$536, respectively - up from S$612 and S$510, which the university has been charging since 2013.
“The increases in rates are to defray increased maintenance costs for hostel premises”, an SMU spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia.
NUS Student Union president Loo Weng Heng said the union is aware that higher hostel fees may affect some students to a greater extent. Therefore, the union is in constant dialogue with the relevant student committees to ensure help is extended to needy students.
“The union meets with the relevant NUS Offices to highlight students' concerns and works together with them to address these issues and to ensure that financial assistance is available to needy students,” said Mr Loo.
But he also noted that higher hostel fees are not a major issue among students, as shown by results from the recent feedback sessions organised by the union. “Most students are generally willing to pay for campus accommodation if they need it,” he added.