Tuition fees for higher education may be cut if a new home financing scheme for staff helps save cash, the Deputy Secretary for the Treasury says. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told an education panel special meeting yesterday: 'At present, students' school fees are based on the unit costs of the institution. 'Provided everything stays the same and university costs drop, I can't see why school fees cannot be cut.' Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the new scheme was set to save $2.7 billion in the next 15 years. The Government said the scheme, taking effect next month, could save money by renting out surplus quarters, de-leasing quarters from the private sector or by redeveloping land where old quarters stood. About 760 quarters for senior staff are set to be vacated in three years. All newly recruited employees of University Grants Committee-funded institutions earning $48,000 or above could apply for the allowances for a maximum period of 10 years until they left the service or the mortgage was completed, whichever came first. But they would not be allowed to live in campus quarters. The allowance, between $20,340 and $56,310, could pay rents or mortgages. A total of 4,943 staff would benefit. The Education and Manpower Bureau will apply for $126 million from Legco to launch the scheme. Legislators generally welcomed the scheme but Democrat Cheung Man-kwong said monitoring should be stepped up to avoid abuses.