More bursary support for higher learning

Bursaries for students at institutes of higher learning will be increased this year and the qualifying criteria eased so more can qualify.

The moves, which will cost the Government up to $147 million a year, will affect about two-thirds of all Singaporean households, or about 120,000 students in the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), polytechnics and universities.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat told Parliament on Friday that the qualifying income level for a household on a per capita basis has been lifted from $1,700 a month to $1,900 as of the start of the new academic year. This will allow more people to apply.

Bursaries have also been increased. An ITE student will receive between $300 and $1,200 in the new academic year, so the annual $357.20 in fees for a full-time Nitec course could be covered.

This is up from the $150 to $1,000 that an ITE student received in bursaries previously.

The increased bursaries will also cover 80 per cent of school fees for students at a local polytechnic and 45 per cent of fees for university students from lower-income families.

Eligible university students receive between $800 and $2,900, but this will rise to between $1,300 and $3,600.

Students eligible for the enhanced bursaries cheered the good news on Friday.

Among them was Mr Alvin Loke, 25, a third-year project and facilities management student at the National University of Singapore.

Mr Loke, an only child, has been working as a part-time tutor to support his housewife mother and himself since his father, a lorry driver, died in 2011 from a heart attack.

He earns about $1,000 a month tutoring seven students a week.

"The amount of money I make per month is not fixed because, sometimes during the holiday season, the students will stop tuition for a month," he said.

In the last academic year, Mr Loke, who has a gross monthly household per capita income of $500, received a bursary of $2,900.

The enhanced bursaries mean that he will receive $3,600 when the new academic year begins in August.

"The increase is definitely good news. It will go into paying for utilities, food and transport," said Mr Loke.

Mr Heng said on Friday that the bursaries come on top of other subsidies that students in the local polytechnics, universities and ITE enjoy.

Coupled with the recent concession for polytechnic students' transport fares, "these changes will reduce the financial burden of many students", he added during the Budget debate for his ministry.

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