Grants to help self-financing college students

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 March, 2006, 12:00am


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Some 13,000 extra school-leavers are expected to qualify for student grants in September under a government plan to boost support for self-financing university and college students.

Self-financing students would receive grants for tuition fees and academic expenses on the same terms as students on publicly funded programmes under the proposals tabled by the Education and Manpower Bureau.

The package, which comes before Legco's education panel on Monday, would cost an extra $322 million in 2006-07, rising to $565 million in 2010-11 when an extra 21,200 students are expected to qualify for the support.

It would make self-financing students whose parents earn too much to claim a full grant of $55,890, eligible to receive part of the grant, according to the family's position on a sliding-scale means test. They can only claim a means-tested loan now.

Self-financing students who meet the new criteria will also be able to claim up to $3,000 a year to cover academic expenses.

Peter Ho Kui-cheung, deputy controller of the Student Financial Assistance Agency, said: 'These measures will go a long way towards easing the financial burden on families of self-financing students. Provided they meet the means test, it will relieve them of the burden of repayment, which can be high when each child at college or university takes out loans over two or three years.'

The grants, offered through the Financial Assistance Scheme for Post-secondary Students, will be made following the same 17-tier means test used for students of publicly funded programmes.

To qualify for support, a family of four must have a total monthly income of $21,512 or less. Students will receive between 4 per cent and 100 per cent of the total grant depending on their income level. Students who pay fees that are higher than the maximum grant will be able to apply for a loan to cover the remainder.

The number of self-financing students has soared over the last six years as places provided without public funding have risen from 10 per cent to 50 per cent of the total.

Enoch Young Chien-ming, Federation for Continuing Education in Tertiary Institutions chairman, welcomed the extra support for self-financing students. 'It will encourage the uptake of associate degree programmes and it is fair to both sets of students,' he said.

Erikson Chan Ka-chun, spokesman for the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said: 'We think this is a good policy. But we are afraid they will use the money earmarked for degree students to pay for the grant money for self-financing students.'