By Jane Ng
STUDENTS entering university this year will not have to worry about fee increases.
All three universities have shelved plans for hikes of between 4 per cent and 10 per cent when they welcome freshmen in August.
The fees will be kept at last year's levels instead, and a review will be carried out at the end of the year.
If the economic situation improves, increases will be made next August, the three institutions - the National University of Singapore (NUS), the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) - said in separate statements yesterday.
Annual fees at the universities range from $6,620 for courses such as arts and social sciences and engineering to $18,960 for medicine.
Also yesterday, all three universities said they would step up efforts to help students who need financial aid.
At NUS, for example, the eligibility criteria for many of its financial aid schemes were loosened so that more students can qualify. The university has also beefed up its student services to help undergraduates find part-time jobs on and off campus.
NTU, meanwhile, announced yesterday that it would pump an additional $2.2 million to fund bursaries and an existing work study scheme, bringing the total available financial aid for its students to $12.48 million.
It plans to provide more part-time jobs on campus to defray students' living expenses.
Over at SMU, the dean of students, Associate Professor Low Aik Meng, said: 'Our qualifying criteria for financial aid are not set in stone. We adopt an open-door policy where students are invited to meet us to explore the financial options most appropriate for their needs.'
SMU said one in eight freshmen in its August intake stands a chance of being awarded a scholarship by the university. It also has several financial assistance schemes, which are expected to benefit one in six freshmen.
Students looking for part-time work on or off campus can also get help.
NUS and NTU followed in SMU's footsteps last year when they adopted a cohort-based fee structure: A student pays the same fees each year for the duration of their studies.
Previously, fees could be adjusted every few years, and many students and parents said they were not prepared for the additional burden it posed.
NUS had planned to raise fees this year by 4 per cent for most courses, 7 per cent for architecture and business programmes and 10 per cent for law and pharmacy programmes.
At NTU, fees for most courses were to have gone up by 4 per cent. For accountancy and business courses, the hike would have been higher: 10 per cent.
SMU fees were to have gone up by about 5 per cent.
Students cheered the fee freeze.
Nineteen-year-old Angela Ng, who hopes to get into the National University of Singapore, said it would ease the burden on her taxi-driver father.
'Any kind of savings is good for my family. I hope they consider not raising it next year as well,' she said.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.