On Thursday (15 Aug), a member of the public Ivan Goh Sian Lung wrote to ST Forum complaining that despite having billions of dollars in its reserves, NUS continues to increase its tuition fees putting pressure on Singaporeans.
“It shocked me to find out that the National University of Singapore (NUS) has been increasing its tuition fees for Singaporean students every year since 2015,” Mr Goh wrote.
“For example, a graduate student doing a computing research programme admitted in 2015 pays $8,600 a year, while a student in the same programme admitted this year pays $9,500 a year, an increase of 10.5 per cent.”
Mr Goh added that the cost of accommodation and food in NUS’ hostels and residential colleges has also continuously been increased. “All these increases add up and put pressure on Singaporeans,” he said.
At the same time, Mr Goh noted that the reserves of NUS has increased from $8.5 billion in the previous year to $9.5 billion in its financial year that ended in March last year.
“Why are Singaporean students paying more despite NUS’ reserves? Are government tuition grants not sufficient to offset these yearly increases?” he asked NUS.
NUS: We didn’t increase fees this year
Probably fearing it would become an election issue in the upcoming GE that might be detriment to his bosses upstairs, the Senior Vice-Provost of NUS, Prof Bernard Tan Cheng Yian, quickly replied. His reply was published today (‘2019 academic year: No tuition fee hike for most NUS undergrad courses‘, 17 Aug).
Prof Tan started off with the usual motherhood statements saying that NUS is “committed to providing an affordable, high-quality education to all our students, regardless of their financial background”.
He revealed that presently, Singaporean students only pay about 25 per cent of the total cost of an undergraduate education.
“Tuition fees are reviewed annually to factor in cost inflation and to maintain the relevance and quality of education. Any fee increases will affect only new cohorts and not current students. Notwithstanding, for the 2019 academic year, most of our undergraduate courses did not see any increase in tuition fees,” he said.
“Further, lower-income students can apply for various bursaries to further defray course fees. These include Ministry of Education-funded bursaries as well as those funded by NUS through our fund-raising efforts.”
In 2018, 28 per cent of students or about 8,800 undergraduates received scholarships and financial aid, he disclosed. Of the 8,800, more than 90 per cent paid less than $5,000 in tuition fees with a third (about 3,000) paying no tuition fees at all, he said.
With Prof Tan’s disclosure, that means 22,600 students last year had to pay more than $8,000 in tuition fees.
It’s not known what NUS is doing about the huge reserves it has garnered over the years. Perhaps earning higher interests to pay people like Prof Tan?