Financial Aid Office Quietly Rolled Out New “Student Effort Contribution” for First Years
story | Aryan Chhabra, Staff Writer
photo | Terence Wang
Students from the Class of 2022 onwards who are receiving financial aid will have to pay a new clause called the Student Effort Contribution (SEC), The Octant discovered.
The Student Effort Contribution is a recently introduced clause in the Yale-NUS College need-based financial aid package. Students are expected to contribute SGD 1500. They are expected to contribute this amount either through securing on-campus employment during the semester or external employment during semester breaks.
This amount is split between the two semesters, meaning that a student is expected to pay (and therefore earn) SGD $750 each semester. This is in addition to another clause called the Family Contribution, which is to be paid by parents and is determined by means-testing.
According to the Yale-NUS Admissions website, the SEC is an “opportunity for students to contribute to their Yale-NUS experience” through “on-campus employment.” The rationale for this, as stressed by Yale-NUS, is that “funding for education is a partnership between student and the College.”
This year is the first year that this new amount has been included, which is why there is not a lot of awareness among the student body regarding the SEC — even among students on financial aid. Some students have said that they feel that Yale-NUS provides inadequate information about how to fulfil the SEC.
A student who has the SEC as part of her financial aid package and only wants to be referred to as L said she “wasn’t given any direct information by Yale-NUS on how the Student Effort Contribution works” and “had to rely on the assumption that it would be like the system in US where students have plenty of on-campus job opportunities to fulfil it.”
Another student, who only wants to be referred to as W, said, “I don’t think they [Yale-NUS] gave any information. I ended up realizing myself that they integrate it into the parent’s contribution in the fee bill. So you technically don’t even need to do it [earn $1500 yourself].”
Some of the affected students have raised concerns about fulfilling the SEC due to the limited number of on-campus jobs. L is one such student. “I don’t feel that students with the SEC clause have priority when it comes to finding on-campus jobs,” she said. W also mentioned that “there doesn’t seem to be enough jobs, and even the jobs that are present don’t pay well enough to earn over 1000 Singapore dollars in a year.”
Responding to these concerns, President of Yale-NUS College Tan Tai Yong noted that he “isn’t sure how far students are finding it difficult to get these jobs” but emphasized that if there is any trouble, students “should raise their hand so we [the Yale-NUS College administration] can assist them.”
Mr. Tan added that if students are finding it difficult to get a job, then it would be “our job to help them [find jobs]” because he stressed that he does not want students “to work outside.” He said that the rationale for the SEC, as mentioned in the website, is the belief that “paying for college should be a joint effort between [the student], the parents and the university.”
Another core question raised by students is why the SEC was only introduced this semester.
Ms. Esther Tan, Manager from the Financial Aid office, stated that the college had been deliberating the implementation of the Student Effort Contribution (SEC) for some time. Ms. Jennifer Wong, an Assistant Manager from the same office, also notes that “this was a decision taken by the Senior Leadership Team after a thorough review of the financial aid system.”
Ms. Tan acknowledges the need for further clarification and points out that the SEC is the student portion of the partnership between students, their families, and the College in paying for a college education. This also allows for all parties to show commitment to the cost of a Yale-NUS education. She acknowledges that information on the SEC can been made clearer but that there are limitations to format changes on the student bill, which NUS has oversight over and is applicable across the entire university. Outside of the student bill, the Yale-NUS Financial Aid Office will be working to ensure that the SEC is better explained to students in the future.
Semester 1 fees are usually due in early October. Ms. Tan stresses that if students encounter problems with the SEC or in finding employment, they should raise the issue with CIPE, who will then assist with the job search.