Higher education students furious at the amount of government financial help they are to receive to pay tuition fees have demanded that their applications be reviewed. The Student Financial Assistance Agency yesterday revealed 409 appeal cases had been received so far this year, compared with 116 in the same period last year. The Students Union at Hong Kong University said it had received complaints from about 30 students obtaining less in grants and loans than last year. A few who were granted between $20,000 and $30,000 last year were told they would receive nothing this year. Tsui Wai-hang, the union's external vice-president, said the Government had revised its annual disposable income formula. The old formula took into account both income and expenditure of an applicant's family but the new one considered only income and uncontrollable medical expenses. Expenses, including mortgages and rents, were not considered, Mr Tsui said. 'This is unfair as most families in Hong Kong pay a mortgage. Housing is the main expenditure for a family. But now the Government does not consider this item and a family's real financial situation is not reflected,' he said. 'Some students who got assistance from the Government last year are really shocked to hear they will not receive a cent to pay for their fees in the coming year. 'Some have had to borrow money from their relatives, others have chosen to apply to the Government's non-means-tested loan scheme despite a higher interest rate.' He estimated that about 30 per cent of 5,000 students who had applied for government help would be affected as their families were paying mortgages. Alfred Wong Chi-wa, assistant controller of the agency, refused to comment on individual cases but said consultations had been held on the new formula before its introduction. He said the change was to help remove inequities under the old formula, which tended to provide less help to families which exercised caution in spending while providing more to those who tended to spend more. He said students unhappy over the amount they received could appeal to the agency. This year, the agency has received more than 24,700 applications for grants or loans, 21,500 of which had been vetted. On average, students received $28,560 as grants and $22,939 as loans.