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5 Ways to Bring Down University Costs and Make it Affordable

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Envisioning yourself throwing a graduation hat? What a moment that promises to be. But to get there, you need to take a good, hard look at your financial situation and work out a way to fund your university education without losing an arm and leg. Here’s what you need to know.

How much does a university degree cost?

In two words – not cheap! If you get through public funded universities like NUS and NTU, you can heave a sigh of relief. A Singaporean student will need to pay between S$8,150 and S$33,000 per annum for a three or four-year course. It may not have been your first choice but if you join a private university, you could be looking at a tuition fee of S$25,000 to S$70,000 per annum.

Thinking of studying abroad? That is sure to open your horizons and pockets!

Australia and UK have traditionally been the most preferred university destinations for Singaporeans and here’s what they cost:

In 2017, the average cost of an undergraduate degree for an international student in Australia was estimated to be around S$29,000 per annum. According to Times Higher Education, in 2017, international students studying in the UK paid between £10,000 and £35,000 (roughly S$18,000 to S$62,000) annually for undergraduate degrees.

Add in about S$6,000 per year for other expenses like your accommodation, books, supplies, meals and other miscellaneous costs and you will be staring at an imposing looking figure.

5 ways to reduce your financial burden, or at least help you afford your tuition fees

1. Take a job on campus

If you have strong academic credentials, you can bag a job as a part-time research assistant at your university itself. Such jobs require you to do tasks such as background research, make reports, organize conferences and handle social media accounts.

There are also numerous project-based work opportunities throughout the year like data entry, content writing, documentation and coding which earn you a handy income and give you valuable work experience.

On campuses like NUS and NTU, tutoring is the most common way students earn some handy cash for their expenses. Rates vary from S$25 to S$50 an hour depending on the student and expertise. You could also do it the good old way by waiting tables, customer service, or trying out part-time jobs like website development and social media management to net anything between S$10 to S$20 an hour.

If you are an international student and want to work while you study

  • You must be a full-time student with a government approved institution
  • You must hold a Student Pass issued by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA)
  • You can work for a maximum of 16 hours per week

2. Take a gap year

We know the concept of a gap year may be quite alien in most homes, but things are changing. A gap year doesn’t mean no university education ever! This may be just what you need to fund your education.

Apply for a paid internship with the companies you dream to work for and earn valuable work experience with a decent paycheck. According to Glassdoor, an internship with companies like Accenture and Apple and banks like OCBC can help you make around S $1,000 to S $1,500 a month.

Love to travel? Apply for international internships and hit two birds with one stone. Glassdoor’s 2017 report on highest paid internships in the US ranged from $4,500 to $8,000 a month, spanning across sectors. Think about how much you can save for university even with a short three-month stint.

3. Use credit cards to earn cashback and other benefits

With a credit card, the bigger the expense, the more you benefit. You know that already, but have you thought about using one to pay your university fees? Some cards also offer attractive interest-free periods or sign-up gifts that sweeten the deal.

However, few factors to watch out for here. One, tuition fees for university maybe excluded from cashback or rewards. Two, your college may not accept credit cards and instead charge a huge fee if you use one.

To get around that, you could also consider using a third-party service like CardUp to pay for your school fees, while earning miles or cashback in doing so. CardUp charges a small fee, so make sure that you’re getting a net benefit (whether in miles or cashback) before deciding to use the service.

Related: Guide to the Best Cashback Credit Cards + When to Use Which Cards

4. Bring down expenses for your cost of living

As you begin life on the university campus, there is one subject you need to (unofficially) major in- budgeting! Singapore Management University (SMU) estimates that an international student in Singapore spends, on average, about S$750 to S$2,000 a month on living expenses. True it is lower for locals, but it isn’t free! How best can you tackle them? Going minimalistic is ideal but not always practical. Here are a few hacks to help you along:

  • Eat at the food courts instead of restaurants and cafes. When possible, head home to eat or cook your own meals
  • Take public transport more often. Use taxis less. Grabshare may be cheaper, but it’s still going to cost much more than the train
  • Sign up for SIM-only mobile plans. You also don’t have to upgrade your phone every year
  • Sell old books and make some extra money
  • Don’t forget the student ID card ever and make the most of discounts and freebies

Related: 52 Ways to Save Money in Singapore

5. Signing up with the armed forces

Unconventional it may be, but this is one option worth looking into if funding your university education is giving you sleepless nights. Under the SAF’s merit scholarship scheme, you stand to get a 60% lump sum back-payment of tuition fees, hostel fees, maintenance allowance and other approved charges. Not just that, you will also receive a monthly salary and an S$12,000 study bonus. Open to both Singapore citizens and permanent residents, you will be sponsored for four years and will be required to sign a bond with the SAF for six years.

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