NUS students receptive to proposed fee hike

Faris Mokhtar and Chua Yini

Students set to enter the National University of Singapore (NUS) in August said its plans to increase tuition fees for the incoming cohort are reasonable but underscored that the hike should not be exorbitant so that university education would remain affordable.

Those Yahoo! Singapore spoke to added that the university must also ensure local students are placed as a priority.

NUS student and president of Kent Ridge Hall Nash Ng, 23, said he has no objection to the fee increase as long as the rationale behind it is reasonable and properly explained to students, and if policies are introduced to mitigate the effects of such an increase.

“If the increased is justified and communicated transparently to the students, with measures put into place to buffer its effects, then yeah, I would be receptive to it,” he said. 

Ng told Yahoo! Singapore that in a meeting with about 50 student leaders on Wednesday evening, NUS Provost Tan Eng Chye said the fee hikes are necessary to maintain a “decent standard of education” in NUS, due to staffing concerns.

An email sent to some student leaders prior to the meeting had informed them beforehand that “the tuition fees for both undergraduates and graduate students will be revised”.

The university did not disclose the exact amount or percentage of the increase and when contacted a NUS spokesperson said, “NUS has had a cohort-based tuition fee structure since Academic Year 2008/2009. The tuition fees for Academic Year 2012/2013 will be announced in due course.”

It is understood that the proposal to raise tuition fees has been sent to the Ministry of Education (MOE) for evaluation but the university did not mention when this took place. It also did not say when the ministry will get back to them on this issue.

In January last year, all three of the country’s public universities – Singapore Management University, Nanyang Technological University and NUS – announced increases in tuition fees between three and six percent.

NUS itself raised fees by four percent which means that a student studying at the arts and social sciences faculty in academic year 2011 would have to pay $7,170. This was an increase of $280 from the previous tuition fee of $6,890 in 2010.

Sharing the same sentiment, Lee Min Shing, 21, who is waiting enrollment into NUS School of Design and Environment in August this year, feels that the increase in tuition fees will have to happen. “This raise is inevitable because of the rising costs of education, and we have to take into account inflation, too,” he said.

However, he added that the raise should not be too exorbitant, as “local students have to be put first, and education should still be affordable”.

Some confusion

Still, some students due to enroll in NUS in August this year are confused whether the plans to increase tuition fees would be applicable to them.

Those who applied in 2010 but have had to defer their studies due to National Service (NS) are unclear if they would be affected by the fee increase.

Chua Yao An, 20, who deferred his university entry to 2012 due to NS said, “I think it’s (fee increase) not so bad, since NUS fees are comparatively lower than other foreign universities for a similar quality of education¬. But I heard that NUS promised not to increase fees for NS guys and use the fee benchmark where we got our acceptance two years ago, so I’m not sure if it applies to me.”

Student leaders present at the meeting also said that instead of talking about tuition fee increase, the Provost addressed the issue of increasing financial aid for NUS. The fee hike was only brought up during the question and answer session, after the dialogue.

Nash Ng said, “My guess is that financial aid is inextricably linked to fee hike. If there is going to be a fee hike, there needs to be measures to take care of students who fall though the system.”

Meanwhile both NTU and SMU said that tuition fee adjustments, if any, will be announced in due course.