By Leong Sze Hian

Thanks to reader who sent education statistics in 1987

After writing the article “University fees increased 7.5% p.a. last 26 years?” (Mar 30), a reader ES sent a 5 March 1987 Straits Times (page 10) article “Ministerial statement on higher fees for NUS, NTI” to the editor of TR Emeritus, as I had said in my article that I was not able to find the education statistics for 1987.

Tuition fee only $1,200 in 1986/87?

According to the article, the tuition fees at NUS in 1986/87 for non-Medicine courses was $1,200, and $1,300 for Medicine.

This year, the fees have increased to $7,650, $8,950, $10,800 and $23,050, for Arts & Social Science, Accountancy & Business Administration, Law and Medicine, respectively.

Increase of as much as 11.2% p.a.?

This translates into an annualised increase of about 7.1, 7.1, 8.5 and 11.2 per cent respectively, for the 27 years from 1986/87 to 2013.

Versus 1.95% inflation?

In contrast, inflation for the 26 years from 1986 to 2012, was only about 1.95 per cent per annum.

Versus only 1.4% Govt spending per student?

The article also said “Government was spending each year $14,400 to educate a student at the university level”. Now, Government Recurrent Expenditure on Education per Student for University was  $20,805 in 2012.

So, does this mean that “Government spending each year to educate a student at the university level”, only increased by an annualised rate of about 1.4 per cent over the 26 years, from 1986 to 2012?

Versus huge Budget surpluses?

Why did we accumulate billions of dollars of Budget surpluses almost every year, over the years, and spent so much less on university students, relative to tuition fees increase? (“Budget surplus: $3.9b or $36b?”, Mar 24)

Versus 6.8% p. a. GDP growth?

Moreover, GDP growth was about 6.8 per cent per annum, over the 26 years, from 1986 to 2012.

Why wasn’t GDP growth translated into more spending on university students?

No tuition grant?

Now what may be particularly interesting is that there appears to be no mention of any tuition grant in 1986/87.

Today, the tuition grant may be about $21,900 per year.

Tuition increased 12.6% p.a.?

So, if we factor in today ‘s tuition grant, does it mean that gross tuition fees may have ballooned at an annualised rate of about 12.6 per cent, from $1,200 in 1986/87 to $29,550 (tuition fee $7,650 + tuition grant $21,900) now in 2013?

Tuition grant like HDB Market Subsidy?

Or could it be that the tuition grant may be akin to the HDB Market Subsidy Pricing policy, which calls the price for new HDB flats as a “subsidised” price? – “Subsidised” tuition fee after the tuition fee grant?

By the way, when was the concept of “tuition grant” introduced?

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