Cash package criticised
STUDENT leaders have criticised the recently approved Local Student Finance Scheme package, saying it would not solve students' financial problems in the long run.
Mung Siu-tat, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said the improvements to the scheme offered only a short-term solution.
The improvements, approved by the Finance Committee this month, include the exclusion of the assets of the applicants' siblings in determining the level of financial assistance. An extended loan scheme will help marginal applicants and those who only qualify for low-level assistance.
The new scheme is expected to benefit 6,200 students.
Mr Mung said a more effective solution would be to cut tuition fees which are estimated to rise 73.8 per cent by 1997-98, in the Government's cost-recovery plan.
'While the education cost recovery concept assumed students' responsibility in shouldering the education expenditures, there was no government promise that the amount of improvements would also be raised to cope with the annual cost increase,' he said.
'Therefore, if the cost of education keeps growing, the improvements will fail to provide the assistance it intends to give students.' Despite the package, he said a revision on the government grants and loans scheme was necessary and he doubted if the scheme could catch up with the rise in education costs.
Mr Mung said he had heard of cases where students were getting a reduced amount of grants and/or loans compared with previous years, even though the family income and assets remained unchanged.
The federation will start research on students' opinions on the scheme in February to compile a report to be submitted to the Education Commission before the summer break.
Tuition fees for this academic year had already gone up 41.2 per cent to $24,000 from last year's $17,000. Fees would be $41,710 by 1997-98.
Leung Ka-shing, external vice-president of the Students' Union of the University of Hong Kong, commented: 'It's like taking your money from your left pocket and putting it in your right. The Government is paying more for the package but will get it back from the raised tuition fees,' he said.
Mr Leung said the union regarded tuition fees reduction as a long-term solution. 'We are not sure how the package will benefit the applicants . . . an additional $100 can also be called beneficial but it would be meaningless. We believe cutting the tuition fees will be a better solution.' The total additional grants and loans which would be made under the proposed improvements in 1995 and 1996 would be $26.6 million and $55 million respectively.
In October the Governor announced an additional $122 million in grants.