Just recently, a friend of mine received a letter from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) as an alumnus of the university, asking for donations to provide for students in need of financial assistance.
The NTU letter writes, “Each year, 1 in 3 students struggle to continue studying at the University. Without community support, they are more at risk of failing to earn a degree.”
The letter also noted that NTU provided close to 1,400 students with financial assistance in the Academic Year 2021/2022.
Suppose we were to assume 25 per cent of the undergraduates are foreigners, based on the statistics of Times Higher Education. Does it mean that there were around 6,217 Singaporean students in financial difficulties?
And can we assume that only 1,400 out of these 6,217 students, managed to qualify and obtain financial assistance from NTU?
From 1987 to 2020, the Government expenditure on university students increased from S$11,993 to S$21,538. This would represent an increase of 1.8 per cent per annum.
However, given that inflation has been 1.6 per cent from 1987 to 2020 based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the real increase would be a mere 0.2 per cent per annum.
At the same time, we can see an increase of about 5.7 per cent in the tuition fee for Dentistry at the National University of Singapore from S$1,200 in 1987 to $30,200 in AY2022/2023 over 35 years.
What is the total cost to taxpayers in funding the tuition grants, scholarships, course fees subsidies, etc, of having arguably, so many non-Singaporean students in all the public educational institutions in Singapore?
80 Per Cent Of International Students In AUs Not Paying Full Fees
In September this year, Non-constituency Member of Parliament, Ms Hazel Poa filed a parliamentary question to the Minister for Education about the number of non-Singapore citizen students in each Government-funded autonomous university and what are the absolute number and percentage of non-Singapore citizen students who are paying full fees versus those receiving tuition grants.
In response, Minister Chan Chun Sing said that the proportion of International Students (ISes) enrolled in the Autonomous Universities (AUs) at the undergraduate level has remained at around 10 per cent in recent years, while the proportion of Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs) has been less than 5 per cent.
The proportion of ISes in the AUs who are paying full fees has been around 20 per cent. The remainder are recipients of tuition grants, which require them to work in Singapore for at least three years upon graduation, as part of their service obligation.
He added that the proportion of international students and the fees they pay varies across other countries, and some may also administer financial aid.
“We do not track the data.” wrote Mr Chan in his written reply.
$238 Million In Scholarship And Tuition Grant
Mr Leon Perera, who was an NCMP back in 2019, asked the Minister of Education for the nominal value that the government spent on foreign students over the last ten years (2009-2019)
In response, then-Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said that the scholarship is S$130 million on average, the tuition grant is about S$108 on average, and therefore, the total average over the past ten years comes up to be about $238 million.
Mr Ong, however, said that this is the worth of the scholarships and tuition grants to foreign students but does not reflect the cost to Singapore’s education system.