University fees up 7% p.a., surplus $1.4b, expenditure up 2%?


Is there really a need to increase university tuition fees every year, if the university has huge annual surpluses?

I refer to the article “Singapore university fees to go up by $50 for most courses; more scholarships, financial aid on offer” (Straits Times, Apr 29).

It states that “All six local universities here will be raising their tuition fees for the new academic year, which begins in August.

Tuition fees for the new intake of Singapore citizens will go up by $50 a year – or about 0.4 per cent to 0.6 per cent – for the bulk of undergraduate programmes at four universities, according to the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Singapore citizens who study medicine and dentistry have to pay $28,400 in tuition fees a year, an increase of $1,000, or 3.6 per cent, from last year.

Those who enrol at Yale-NUS College and Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music will have to bear an increase of $500, a rise of between 2.6 per cent and 3.9 per cent.

Since 2010, university fees have largely gone up every year. The fee hikes for local undergraduates for previous years ranged from 0.6 per cent to 8 per cent.”

According to NUS’s web site – the tuition fee for normal courses will increase to $8,200.

7% p.a. increase in fees?

As I understand that the fee was less than $1,000 in 1987, does it mean that fees have increased by about seven per cent per annum, in the last 31 years years or so?

Expenditure per University student: 2% p.a. increase?

In contrast, Government Recurrent Expenditure on Education per Student for University was an annual increase of only about 2 per cent from 1998 to 2017 (19 years), from $15,125 to $21,853. (Note: I am unable to find the data for 1987).

According to the NUS annual report 2016 and 2017 –

$735m, $52m & $657m surplus in 2015, 2016 & 2017? 

The surplus for the year in 2015, 2016 and 2017 was $734.8, $52.1 and $657 million, respectively.

Since the surplus for the last three years was $1.4 billion ($734.8 + $52.1 + $657 million) – why is there a need to increase fees?

Leong Sze Hian


About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.