SINGAPORE - Singapore's two newest universities, the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) will be lowering their annual tuition fees.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday (Aug 18) in his National Day Rally speech that the fees will go down from $8,000 to $7,500 for full-time general degree students next year.
At the same time, the Ministry of Education will also significantly enhance government bursaries for university, polytechnic, Institute of Technical Education, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) and Lasalle College of the Arts students.
Students from less privileged backgrounds must be confident of getting financial aid to help see them through their education, and they must not be deterred from pursuing a course just because of money, PM Lee said.
"This is fundamental to maintaining Singapore as an open meritocracy," he said.
He said the MOE looked at whether the universities can operate more economically and concluded that SIT and SUSS, which emphasise applied learning through industry attachment and internships, can lower their operating costs. This is especially as they achieve economies of scale as their intakes grow.
SIT for example has grown from 500 students in 2010 to 7,000 currently. Its intake for the new academic year is 2,600, but this will grow to more than 3,000.
PM Lee also announced that for needy students across all six universities, government bursaries will be increased to cover 75 per cent of the fees for those taking up general degrees, up from the 50 per cent currently.
After the bursary enhancement, a student taking up computer science or economics, for example, will pay $2,000 a year instead of $4,000 a year. Full fees are about $8,000 a year.
The bursary coverage for polytechnic students will go from up to 80 per cent of fees to up to 95 per cent. This means that bursary students will pay only $150 a year. Currently, they pay $600 a year. The full fees are around $3,000.
The enhanced bursaries will also apply to diploma and degree students at Nafa, Lasalle and the ITE.
PM Lee said six in 10 polytechnic and university students are eligible for government bursaries, so the enhancements will benefit many students from middle-income families too.
SIT president Tan Thiam Soon, who was in the audience, welcomed the increased bursaries.
He told The Straits Times: "Education is the engine that powers social mobility... The enhanced public bursaries, complemented by SIT's financial aid, will widen the access to support for SIT students and go a long way in alleviating the costs of pursuing a tertiary education. In fact, nearly half of our student population currently benefit from a public bursary. These financial assistance schemes will allow students from the lower-income groups, many of whom are the first in their families to go to university, to attain a degree without worrying about the costs."
SUSS president Cheong Hee Kiat said the schemes will make higher education more affordable for Singaporeans, enabling them "to chart new pathways and build promising futures".