Story | Avery (she/her)
Illustration/photo | Joshua Vargas (he/him)
The demographics of the first NUS College (NUSC) cohort debuted in a report by The Straits Times on Sunday (17 July).
The data—released first in the national newspaper despite The Octant queries two weeks prior—reveal an inaugural cohort more diverse in some aspects and less in others than the Yale-NUS Class of 2025, the liberal arts college’s final intake.
Greater accessibility is a central tenet behind NUS College’s founding, according to NUS President Tan Eng Chye in a September 2021 editorial defending the new programme, then known as New College.
7,000 Applicants, 400 Students
NUS College will welcome 400 students in its first class, or 6% of its approximately 7,000 applications. NUSC did not publicize the total number of offers, with which acceptance rates are typically calculated.
The size of the NUS College application pool decreased by more than half from the last Yale-NUS admissions cycle, where 14,367 applications were submitted and 240, or about 2%, attended.
“We are excited about the interest for NUS College and are impressed with the quality of applicants for our first intake,” commented Vice Dean (Outreach) Quek Su Ying of NUS College, responding to queries from The Octant.
“We expect to attract more interest from outstanding students in the years to come.”
At admission, the distribution of intended majors among NUS College students is as follows, representing most NUS faculties except Medicine and Dentistry. This aligns with NUS College’s ambitions to offer “flexible access to multiple pathways and specialisations,” according to Prof. Tan.
NUS College students also have the option to change their majors in the first two years of college.
|NUS College (at admissions, data provided by NUS College)
NUS College said that “a college survey of [first-years’] household incomes found that about one in four can be classified as ‘needy’ students who are likely to qualify for higher education bursaries.”
This is considerably lower than the proportion of students NUS-wide, which a February The Straits Times article quoted as 55% of all undergraduates.
This also reflects a significant decrease from the Yale-NUS Class of 2025, 39% of whom received merit or need-based aid. In the Class of 2024, the last Yale-NUS cohort with need-blind admissions for international students, that number rises further to 57%.
The complexities of financial aid also hinder straightforward comparison. On the surface, Yale-NUS is considerably more expensive, with fees ranging from $30,041 per year for Singapore citizens to $74,653 for international students not on the tuition grant.
An NUS College student will pay $8,250 as a Singapore citizen or $34,250 as an international student without the tuition grant, and a residential fee of approximately $7,000 to stay in Cinnamon College.
However, Yale-NUS adopted a need-based approach towards financial aid, offering individualized awards based on what it believed each student could pay after an assessment of personal circumstances regardless of citizenship.
While the College does not publicize specific aid quanta, students can sometimes pay significantly less than the asking price.
What NUS College refers to by “higher education bursaries” is unclear. It is also unknown if the one-in-four proportion includes all students who “are likely to” qualify for at least one financial scheme, or considers only those who receive sufficient financial aid in NUS College’s judgment.
“We will continue to keep the fees at NUSC affordable, while our students will also have access to the extensive financial aid options that are currently available for all NUS students,” says Prof. Quek in response to financial aid queries.
The NUS Office for Financial Aid uses Per Capita Income (PCI) as the main determinant of eligibility for many of its numerous schemes, each with varying requirements, according to its website.
Such rigid criteria may not adequately reflect individual circumstances, such as if a family supports multiple university-age children simultaneously or if family members require high medical expenditures.
International students are also restricted in the types of aid they receive, being explicitly excluded from some types of bursaries in addition to stricter PCI requirements of less than $1,200, as opposed to $2,700 for Singaporeans.
The same February article announced that NUS will cover all tuition fees for Singaporean students with a PCI lower than $1,000, while those with PCIs lower than $690 will receive up to $26,000 over four years for living expenses. Residential Colleges may also award bursaries to offset residential fees.
Schools and Cultures of Origin
NUS College will welcome 20 Polytechnic graduates—a slightly higher proportion than the last Yale-NUS cohort—and five Madrasah graduates among its first students. Yale-NUS did not specify in the past if any students were admitted from Madrasahs.
International students hold 21 different citizenships, a fall from the 35 represented in the Class of 2025, and comprise 100 of the 400 students.
The Octant has also used the number of students from Singapore-based schools as a gauge of cultural diversity, as citizenship may not accurately reflect the cultural backgrounds of foreign students attending local or international schools in Singapore. NUS College did not address The Octant queries on the topic.
NUS College also declined to provide data on gender identity or legal sex. In comparison, legal sex is one of the few demographic data the NUS Registrar’s Office makes available for the whole NUS student body.
Previously, the Yale-NUS admissions office released data on student legal sex, while declining to do so for gender identity as it did not require new students to answer such a question.
“The NUSC team and senior students are now focused on welcoming our inaugural cohort when they join us in August,” Prof. Quek commented.