SINGAPORE: New and existing lower-income students will pay reduced university and polytechnic school fees from the next academic year with the Ministry of Education (MOE) set to increase government bursaries.
In his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (Aug 18), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that for university students, MOE will increase bursaries from up to 50 per cent of general degree fees, to up to 75 per cent.
This means a lower-income university student will pay S$2,000 a year, as compared to the previous S$4,000 a year, if he fully uses the bursary on his school fees. The full fees for a general degree programme in the National University of Singapore (NUS) are about S$8,000 a year.
For polytechnic students, MOE will increase the bursary coverage from up to 80 per cent of fees to up to 95 per cent.
This means a lower-income polytechnic student will pay S$150 a year, as compared to the previous S$600 a year, with a bursary. The full fees for a polytechnic diploma are around S$3,000 a year.
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Mr Lee said the move is aimed at making Singapore’s education system “as accessible as possible”.
“We want every Singaporean son and daughter to have the opportunity to receive a good education and start well in life, regardless of family circumstances,” he said.
“Students from less privileged backgrounds … should neither feel disadvantaged nor inferior comparing themselves to better off classmates, nor should they be deterred from pursuing a course just because of money.”
This is fundamental to maintaining Singapore as an open meritocracy, he said.
Mr Lee said the move will also benefit students from middle-income families, with six in 10 university and polytechnic students eligible for government bursaries.
To qualify for the MOE bursary at the post-secondary level, Singapore citizens must have a gross monthly household income (GHI) of S$9,000 and below, or gross monthly household per capita income (PCI) of S$2,250 and below.
To qualify for the Community Development Councils/Citizens’ Consultative Committees bursary, Singapore citizens must have a GHI of S$4,000 and below, or PCI of S$1,000 and below.
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Mr Lee added that the increased bursaries will cover diploma and degree students at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and LASALLE College of the Arts.
INCREASED BURSARIES FOR MEDICAL STUDENTS
Lower-income medical students will also see their hefty school fees slashed with increased bursaries that are “significantly more generous” than those for other university courses, Mr Lee said.
Together with other university bursaries, he stated that these students will now pay at most S$5,000 a year. Currently, medical school fees at NUS and the Nanyang Technological University cost almost S$29,000 and S$35,000 a year, respectively, after government subsidies.
“We should not let the cost of medical school deter good students from studying medicine,” Mr Lee added. “In fact, we want doctors to have diverse educational and family backgrounds.”
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Mr Lee also expressed hopes that universities, polytechnics and ITE will set up more of their own bursaries to complement Government bursaries, with alumni and the community contributing “generously”.
He pointed out that the Government will match up to three times of donations to newer universities and up to 1.5 times for the rest.
“Our institutions often raise funds for new building and professorships, and this is always meritorious,” Mr Lee added.
“But bursaries can make a crucial difference to the recipients – and they have the extra human touch. If you donate towards a bursary, you enable some promising young person to get a good start in life.”
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LOWER FEES AT SIT AND SUSS
Beyond bursaries, Mr Lee announced that MOE will lower annual school fees for full-time general degree programmes at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) from about S$8,000 to S$7,500.
This comes after a recent MOE review of tertiary fees and how universities can “operate more economically”, Mr Lee said.
“Two of them, SIT and SUSS, are more applied and do more industry attachments and internships,” he explained. “Their operating costs per student can be lower, especially as student intakes grow.”