This article was first published on 3 December 2018 and updated with the latest information.
As you know, the GCE ‘O’ Level examination results for the 2020 cohort is just released on 11 January 2021. ‘O’ Level graduates will then have 5 days to apply for the tertiary programme of their choice under the Joint Admissions Exercise (JAE).
For students applying for a polytechnic course, it will be the first time in at least 10 years that they are leaving the heavily-subsidised comforts of the Ministry of Education system, and enrolled into one of five polytechnics in Singapore.
Here’s what you need to know to prepare yourself (financially) to apply and enrol into a full-time polytechnic diploma.
School Fees For Full-Time Polytechnic Diploma Education
The school fees are uniform across all five polytechnics and across all courses.
For Academic Year (AY) 2021, all five local polytechnics will retain their cohort-based fee structure, which means the fees will be set based on the year of enrolment and remain unchanged for the duration of the student’s course.
For students who secured a place in the polytechnic but are serving full-time national service, tuition fees will be locked in based on the year of offer.
For the AY2021 cohort, Singaporeans pay $2,900 per year (after tuition grant), while Singapore PRs pay $6,000 per year (after tuition grant). School fees for international students are $11,000 per year.
This means that the cost of an entire polytechnic diploma (a 3-year programme) for Singapore citizens, after tuition grant, is $8,700.
The annual polytechnic tuition fee is payable in equal halves over two semesters. GST on tuition fees paid by Singapore Citizens and PRs are absorbed, while international students need to pay GST.
Tuition fees are set by the Ministry of Education and are reviewed every year and adjusted if needed to defray the cost of delivering a quality education. For reference, the Singaporeans in the AY2018 cohort are paying $2,800 per year, while Singaporeans in the AY2017 batch are paying $2,700.
In addition to tuition fees, polytechnics charge supplementary fees once a year for miscellaneous expenses, which might include fees for insurance, the student union, orientation costs, sports facilities, examinations, and more.
Tuition Grant For Full-Time Polytechnic Diploma Programmes
The MOE Tuition Grant Scheme is a government initiative to help students afford tertiary education in Singapore. The scheme is open to students enrolled in full-time diploma and undergraduate courses in approved Institutes of Higher Learning.
For Singapore Citizens, the grant is awarded automatically, without the need for application and approval, and there is also no bond obligation to serve.
Non-Singapore Citizens (including Permanent Residents) who secured a place in a local polytechnic can apply to receive the tuition grant – subject to approval and with a contractual obligation to work in a Singapore entity for at least three years after graduation.
Financing Your Polytechnic Education
Tuition fees are paid in a semester-by-semester basis, rather than a lump sum upfront, which should allow students and parents to make plans to fund the school fees required.
For those with difficulties, various options are available to further support your tertiary studies.
Scholarships: These come in a variety of flavours, offered by private companies, government organisations, and charitable foundations. Some scholarships come with a bond, that requires you to work at a particular place for a stipulated length of time.
The scope of scholarships differ, but they typically include paying your tuition fees (in whole or in part), an allowance, budget for a laptop and textbooks, and money to go for overseas exchanges.
Financial Aid: If your family meets the qualifying criteria, you can apply for financial aid from your respective polytechnic.
Post-Secondary Education Account: If you have funds still in your Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA), you can use them to offset the cost of your polytechnic education. For guys who have finished serving National Service prior to enrolment, the National Service Housing, Medical and Education (NS HOME) Awards supplements your PSEA by $3,000 for non-commanders and $3,500 for commanders.
CPF Education Scheme: If your parents or relatives have sufficient funds in their CPF Ordinary Account, you can tap on their CPF monies CPF Education Scheme (CPFES) to pay for your school fees. Once you start work, you’ll then repay the amount drawn, plus accrued interest.
Tuition Fee Loan (TFL): If the above options are not available to you, you can apply for the Tuition Fee Loan for up to 90% of the subsidised tuition fee payable. Tuition Fee Loans are provided by the Ministry of Education and administered by DBS and OCBC.
The main difference between the TFL and the CPFES is that the interest rate of the TFL is pegged to the prime lending rates of DBS, OCBC and UOB which stand at 4.25% and 5% respectively, which is higher than the CPFES rate of 2.5%. However, the TFL only charges interest after graduation, while the CPFES charges interest from the day the loan is taken.
If you qualify for both schemes and have trouble deciding, the CPF Board has compiled a list of scenarios to find out which scheme will be better for you. You can also use CPF Calculators to calculate your monthly instalment and the length of your loan repayment period.
Applying For A Polytechnic Course Of Your Choice
A polytechnic education is an exciting new phase in your educational journey. Now that you’ve sorted out the financial details of your diploma education, all that’s left is to pick a course that will benefit you the most – in terms of knowledge, skills, life experiences and networks – and apply for it once the Joint Admissions Exercise opens!