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The Octant Explains: How Expensive is Yale-NUS, Really?

All PostsFeaturesThe Octant Explains: How Expensive is Yale-NUS, Really?

Story | Yip Jia Qi (he/him), Former Staff Editor
Tables | Lily Chen, Xie Yihui

With the closure of Yale-NUS, a common point made is that Yale-NUS was too expensive. Indeed, our school fees are the most expensive in Singapore, if you ignore NUS Medicine and Dentistry. We compare the school fees for AY 2021/2022 for Yale-NUS to other programs in Singapore, to obtain a sense of scale.

Source: NTU, SUTD, SMU, NUS, Yale-NUS
*TGS refers to the Tuition Grant Scheme, a Singapore government-sponsored subsidy to offset the cost of tertiary education. International students or Singapore Permanent Residents awarded with TGS are required to work for a Singapore entity for three years upon graduation. 

Unsurprisingly, a quick glance at the numbers shows that, as many people have rightly pointed out, Yale-NUS College does indeed have the most expensive school fees among the programs listed here. Interestingly, NTU’s Renaissance Engineering Programme, which is NTU’s own take on a residential program with elements of a liberal arts education, is quite expensive as well. 

While expensive, both Yale-NUS and NTU REP provide a range of financial support options to offset costs for the needy. At Yale-NUS, the school is committed to “meet the full demonstrated need” of all admitted students. By the numbers, the proportion of all students receiving need-based financial support for each class is around 50%, and has remained consistent from the Class of 2021 to 2024 with a fluctuation of no more than 4%. Before this year’s application cycle, Yale-NUS admission was also need-blind for all students, meaning that it did not consider an applicant’s financial situation when deciding who to admit. Yale-NUS remains need-blind for local students. 

To be fair, NTU also offers an REP scholarship to “outstanding freshmen pursuing full-time REP in NTU” which will cover most of the high fees. It is also interesting to see that SUTD, which is also a small school with a residential program that one might consider to be Yale-NUS’s distant sibling, has relatively affordable tuition even if it is still on the high side.

However, Yale-NUS is Singapore’s only independent small liberal arts college (SLAC), and it might benefit from comparison with other small liberal arts colleges. Here, we compare the top five SLACs and their tuition, room, and board costs as per data from the US News ranking website.

Source:  Yale-NUS Accommodation and Meals, US News College Rankings, NTU Accommodation, NUS Accommodation and Meals, SUTD Accommodation

As expected, there is a gulf between an SLAC in the US and almost any school in Singapore, including Yale-NUS if you look at the school fees for local students. The cheapest of the top five US SLACs, Williams College, costs over three times more than Yale-NUS, even before room and board. For international students not on the TGS, Yale-NUS school fees are actually in the ballpark of the US SLACs, as are SUTD fees. NUS CHS + USP remains a very cheap option even for international students.

As any good salesperson will tell you, whether something is expensive or not is a matter of perspective. If all you want to purchase is an education in Singapore, then Yale-NUS is undoubtedly expensive. However, if what you want is a liberal arts education, then Yale-NUS is a really cheap option for Singaporeans. This also has the additional advantage of slowing down the brain drain of Singaporeans who cannot find the education they want in Singapore. The closure of Yale-NUS will no doubt reduce the diversity of education options available to the average Singaporean since not everyone can afford to go overseas. 

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