New SMU scheme benefits needy students

SMU Access fully covers tuition fees; there is no cap on total number who can receive grant

Quantedge Foundation scholarship holders Lee Wen Hui (left) and Joyce Lee are among the 13 students who have received the bond-free scholarship this year.
Quantedge Foundation scholarship holders Lee Wen Hui (left) and Joyce Lee are among the 13 students who have received the bond-free scholarship this year. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Since she was in secondary school, 21-year-old Joyce Lee has been pulling shifts in various retail or service jobs to save up for university.

From gigs as a barista at McDonald's and as a service crew member at a sushi joint, Ms Lee has set aside about $10,000 over the years.

But the incoming first-year student at Singapore Management University's (SMU) Lee Kong Chian School of Business was still worried about whether she would be able to afford tuition fees for the four years of study, which would come up to about $45,000.

"Even with bursaries and my part-time jobs, I am not sure if I will have enough money," said the eldest child of three from a single-parent family. Her mother is a cashier, while both her younger sisters - one in university and the other in polytechnic, are also working part-time.

But when she accepted the offer at SMU earlier this year, she was pleasantly surprised to find out that her tuition fees will be fully paid for.

She was one of 13 incoming first-year students at SMU who are the first batch of students to benefit from SMU Access.

Launched in March, the scheme offers grants and scholarships to ensure that the tuition fees of its financially needy Singaporean undergraduates are fully covered throughout their four years in SMU.

All 13 who received the grant this year also qualified for the scholarship component, called the Quantedge Foundation Scholarship.

The bond-free scholarship is given to financially needy students with strong academic potential - conditional on them maintaining a cumulative grade point average of at least three out of four each year.

Yesterday, the students attended an appreciation ceremony at SMU, where they received their scholarship certificates.

All students who meet the qualifying criteria for SMU Access, based solely on students' household economic circumstances - such as per capita income and housing type - will be eligible for the grant. They do not have to go through additional interviews, and there is no cap on the total number of beneficiaries who can receive the grant.

  • Other financial aid schemes for S'pore undergrads

  • Most financial help packages for Singaporean undergraduates include loans, bursaries and work-study assistance schemes that provide them with part- time employment.

    The amount they get depends on their level of need based on family income and other factors.

    University undergraduates can also turn to loans offered by other agencies. But there are fewer of such schemes.

    One is the Ministry of Education's Tuition Fee Loan scheme, which covers up to 90 per cent of the subsidised fees that Singaporeans pay.

    The loan interest is calculatedafter graduation and the student is given up to 20 years to repay the loan.

    Under the Mendaki Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy scheme, Malay undergraduates whose monthly household per capita income does not exceed $1,500, among other conditions, can receive a subsidy of between 50 per cent and 100 per cent for their fees.

    The National University of Singapore (NUS) offers a wide range of bursaries, including the NUS Bursary which is at least $1,050 a year. The bursary is for one academic year, and students have to re-apply each time.

    Students living on campus can also apply for bursary grants ranging from $4,000 to $6,000 to defray the cost of accommodation.

    Similarly, the bursaries at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) are usually for one academic year, and students have to re-apply each time. The sum awarded is at least $1,350 for use in their studies and living expenses.

    The NTU Study Loan offers a full-time student up to $3,600 an academic year for living expenses.

    The loan interest is calculated six months after the student graduates or when he or she is employed. The loan has to be repaid within 20 years.

SMU Access is seed-funded by an $8 million gift from local charity Quantedge Foundation, and will be supported through government grants, SMU funds and other donor gifts.

Mr Suhaimi Zainul-Abidin, a board member of the Quantedge Foundation, said: "We want to send a message (to all Singaporean students) that they should never be shy or have second thoughts about going to university (because of financial circumstances), as long as they qualify."

Ms Lee, who used to work between 20 and 40 hours a week when she studied at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said that the grant will allow her to put more time into her studies and pursue her interest in financial risk analysis as a career.

Another Quantedge Foundation scholarship holder, 20-year-old Lee Wen Hui, said that receiving the grant was an "unexpected gift".

"I can stop taking allowances from my parents and also have more time for co-curricular activities like dance or a cappella singing," said Ms Lee, who wants to join the banking and finance industry.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2017, with the headline New SMU scheme benefits needy students. Subscribe