In a double whammy, NUS will increase its undergraduate tuition and hostel fees starting from the next academic year beginning this August.
In an e-mail circular sent to all students, NUS Provost Professor Tan Eng Chye explained that the increase from academic year 2008/ 2009 is necessary as the “cost per undergraduate has been increasing due to higher manpower and operating cost.”
All new undergraduates admitted in the academic year starting in August will pay at least four percent more in tuition fees. Hostel fees will be increased by as much 75 percent and staggered over three years (see chart).
Current undergraduate students enrolled before the 2007/ 2008 academic year will not be affected by the increase in undergraduate tuition fees.
The decision to increase fees has drawn strong criticism from some undergraduate students staying in hostels.
Joel Fong, a first-year sociology major and Sheares Hall resident, said more financial accountability is needed.
He said: "It is not justified. Increases have to be made accountable. I want raw facts."
Liow Chiew Shan, 19, a first-year student from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Eusoff Hall resident, said: “The increase in hostel fees is too much. Shouldn’t it be pegged to the inflation rate? It’ll be an increased financial burden, especially for those who are working to pay for their own fees.”
Pirapong See, a first-year FASS undergraduate staying in a single room at the Kent Ridge View Residences, said that the across-the-board raise in NUS hostel fees was unfair.
He said, “I think they should revise fees based on individual halls. I get lousier facilities in Ridge View, but I pay the same amount. What operational cost increase? There are no facilities, what is there to operate?”
The university administration has emphasised that the fee increase has been long overdue. The proposal to increase hostel fees was approved in principle in 2005, but was not implemented as the university was not sure if students could afford it.
Eusoff Hall Master, Associate Professor Tan Tin Wee, said, “It is still below market rates. The hostel fees should have been at this rate a few years ago. The university has been deferring the much-needed increase since 2005 for the sake of students.”
It has also been revealed that the decision to increase fees is periodically discussed by the university administration.
In an e-mail interview two weeks before the official announcement on Feb. 12, Professor Tan Teck Koon, dean of the Office of Student Affairs, said, “Hostel fees is a matter that is re-visited and discussed from time to time as it is cost-related and there is always the concern with students' affordability. It need not necessarily lead to further development or implementation after each review.”
Another reason for the increase in hostel fees can be attributed to the proposal to incorporate the new Warren Campus concept to existing hostels.
The Warren Campus concept fuses the accommodation provided by hostels with a centre for teaching.
Under this new proposal, residents staying at Kent Ridge campus hostels will be able to take multi-disciplinary modules within the vicinities of the halls.
Associate Professor Tan Tin Wee, said, “There will be expected new changes to the hall operations including the possibility of doing flexible and innovative modules associated with hall stay.
“In other words, you may pay more, but you will definitely get even more out of your hall stay.”
With the increase in fees, most of the prospective students said they are not deterred to apply to NUS in the new academic year
Tan Teck Heng, 19-year-old national serviceman applying to the Faculty of Law or Arts and Social Science this year, said, “I think that it is quite okay. It’s an education we are talking about. With inflation, and the need to retain talent, I think it’s still affordable.”
Hah Zengmin, aged 23, hopes to get a place in NUS to study psychology this year.
He said: “The increase in hostel fees is quite ridiculous. But I don’t think the increase in school fees will affect my decision to apply to NUS.”
International students, facing fee increases from 40 per cent onwards, see the sharpest increase.
Lim Joon Seng, a Malaysian and first-year Real Estate major, said, "I would require loans and financial aid. It will be more difficult financially.”
Students are assured that there are measures in place to help them financially.
Eusoff Hall Master Associate Professor Tan, said, “For those who face financial difficulties, we have in place various measures from the university level down to the halls. Do not be shy to approach us if you need help.”
Additional reporting by Tettyana Jasli and Joshua Sim.