SINGAPORE - Needy students in the medicine and dentistry university courses will pay just a fraction of the current fees from next year.
Currently, 11 per cent of medicine and dentistry students come from families in the lowest 30 per cent income bracket.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Thursday (Aug 22) that with the Government increasing bursary amounts and together with university bursaries, students from the lowest-income households - those in the bottom 20 per cent income group - will pay no more than $5,000 per year.
This is down from the current annual fees that this group of students currently fork out - $24,900 for the medicine and dentistry courses at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and $30,700 for medicine at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
Similarly, tuition fees for students in the 30th percentile income bracket will be reduced to about $5,000 to $10,000, down from $25,150 for NUS and $30,950 for NTU currently.
In all, the increase in yearly bursary amounts for medicine and dentistry undergraduates across NUS and NTU range from $3,600 to $20,700, depending on their household incomes.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said that these two courses have the most expensive tuition fees among undergraduate courses due to the higher cost of running their programmes, including facilities like labs and materials required.
"Plus there's also a segment of their training that is expensive, which is their clinical attachment and clinical training in the hospitals. So all these add up," he said.
Mr Ong added: "We want to make sure that all of them can have sufficient support and we do not deter students from lower-income backgrounds from studying medicine and dentistry."
First-year NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine student Sakthivel Kuppusamy said it is a relief that his course fees will be reduced significantly. His family's gross household income is about $2,300 monthly, which means that his tuition fees from next year will only cost him $5,000 at most.
"My parents are pretty amazed, and it's a huge burden off everyone's chest," said the Raffles Institution alumnus, who has also applied for a few university bursaries.
His father is a chauffeur and his mother previously worked as a cleaner before she stopped at the end of 2012 due to medical reasons. The family lives in a five-room flat in Sengkang.
"I was planning to give tuition during the weekends, but with the reduction, I don't have to do it so frequently, and have more time to focus on my studies," said the 19-year-old, who is an only child.
"My parents have never made me feel like we have a financial burden," he said. "Everything I ask for, they will support and give... when I asked for a textbook, my dad would give me the money to buy it."