While many of us might want to pursue higher education in private education institutions, funding is often a big question mark.
Unlike our peers in public universities, students going the private route don’t get to benefit from the MOE Tuition Grant, which subsidizes tuition fees by as much as 80%. Many scholarship schemes also don’t recognize private universities, leaving students with few ways to alleviate their punishing financial burden. And, while some may be able to rely on family funding, many of us aren’t so lucky.
Does this mean there’s no choice but to give up on our higher education ambitions? Not quite! Private university students can still count on several options to help make further studies affordable for all. Here are some ways you can finance your dream degree:
1. School scholarships
Nearly all private education institutions have scholarship packages for outstanding and passionate students. Such scholarships usually offer anywhere between 50% to 100% coverage of your tuition fees, lightening the financial burden so that you can better focus on your studies.
Typically, school scholarships seek students with a strong academic record – PSB Academy’s Merit Scholarship, for example, requests that poly applicants have a minimum GPA of 3.0. However, don’t write yourself off even if you don’t quite fit the description of a high-flyer. Many private universities know that their students shine in diverse ways, and have different types of scholarships to fit them.
For instance, PSB Academy currently collaborates with the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union to offer the PSB Academy – SISEU Scholarship. This scholarship targets socially-engaged students with active union membership and strong participation in co-curricular activities.
Remember, don’t be discouraged from applying by the thought of stiff competition for these scholarships. Just put together the best application you can, and don’t hesitate to show off your strengths in your personal statements.
2. Bursaries and scholarships from self-help groups
Every student deserves the chance to pursue higher education regardless of financial status, and various groups within each ethnic community have set up fantastic schemes to achieve this meritocratic vision.
You’ve probably heard of CDAC, Yayasan MENDAKI, SINDA, and Eurasian Association (EA) – these are the 4 main self-help groups serving our Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian communities respectively.
Each year, these groups give out numerous scholarships and bursaries to support students from low-income families. MENDAKI, in particular, has a generous range of funding options for those pursuing studies at private institutions, such as the Dr Jai Prashanth Rao Scholarship.
In addition, members of SINDA, MENDAKI and EA can now tap on special scholarships funded by PSB Academy, thanks to a recent agreement between PSB and these self-help groups as part of the former’s Accessable Initiative.
If you happen to be a resident of Nee Soon East GRC, you might also want to check out the Nee Soon East Tertiary Award. This award co-funded by the Government and the citizens consultative committee (CCC) of Nee Soon GRC, deserves a special mention for being the only bursary available to private institution students. It aims to help defray the high costs of studying in private universities.
Other financial support programmes include the MTFA Scholarship & Bursary from the Muslim in Trust Fund Association, which assists Muslim full-time students from lower-income backgrounds, as well as the Sivadas-HEB Tertiary Bursary from the Hindu Endowments Board, which subsidises up to 50% of tuition fees for Hindu students from low-income families.
3. Study loans from banks
Most banks in Singapore offer education loans with low interest rates and flexible repayment schemes. For instance, OCBC provides a FRANK Education Loan with the choice of paying monthly instalments once your loan is disbursed, immediately after graduation, or a year after graduating.
Study loans may appear risky for many due to the prospect of graduating with a mountain of debt. But as they say, education is an investment – with a degree in hand, your earning power is likely to be up to 46% higher, putting you in a better financial position in the long term. Such loans give you the peace of mind to focus on your studies, allowing you to make repayment at a reasonable rate only after you graduate.
To find out about the best study loans you can get in Singapore, check out our in-depth comparison here.
4. TCC Education Loan
If the hefty interest rates of bank loans make you wince, you might want to look to The Credit Co-operative (TCC) for an alternative option.
TCC is a non-profit financial organization which aims to provide budget-friendly interest rates. Its Local Education Loan offers an interest rate of 2.2% flat rate – definitely one of the lowest rates around.
What’s more, if you’re one of the lucky students entering PSB Academy, the interest on your TCC loan will be a grand total of zero percent. PSB Academy is currently absorbing the 2.2% rate normally charged by TCC, in order to provide its students with interest-free, affordable education.
Many corporations and organisations have scholarships for students aspiring to enter a particular industry. Although these are generally open only to public universities, you might, for example, be able to negotiate a funding agreement with companies you’ve previously interned at.
Some scholarships open to private education students include A Better Florist’s, which will sponsor up to SGD 4,000 for your school fees (you must already be enrolled in a course). Another possibility, for example, would be Rikvin Pte Ltd., an international firm that specialises in Singaporean company incorporation. The firm welcomes students enrolled in an accredited institution to apply. It might take a bit of hunting, but you just might find a few scholarships open to you!
6. Government Assistance
Do take note that some advanced diplomas are supported by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG). This means that you can get up to 80% of your course fees to be funded, if you’re a Singaporean or PR aged 21 and above.
If you’re 35 and above and earning $2,000 or less per month, the Workfare Training Support (WTS) scheme is available to you, through which you can get 95% of your course fees subsidised. Courses eligible for such funding include Training Vision Institute’s Advanced Diploma in Service Management, or the WSQ Specialist Diploma in Retail Management offered by Singapore Institute of Retail Studies.
This list of funding options is certainly not exhaustive – depending on your circumstances, there are many other ways of supporting your private education.
Even with the rising costs of higher education, it’s possible for private education to remain affordable as we’ve just shown. All students, whether entering private or public institutions, deserve to have the financial support they need – so don’t hesitate to make use of one or more of these options!