Students complained to Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung yesterday that education fees in Hong Kong were too high. But Mr Leung said he had also faced tough economic conditions during his childhood. The complaints were lodged by students during a two-hour discussion with Mr Leung when he visited a youth centre in Tsuen Wan. One youngster, referring to high tuition fees for Project Springboard and the associated degree programme, said: 'Parents are already unemployed. How can they pay such high tuition fees?' Project Springboard allows Form Five leavers and those over 21 to continue their education and costs about $37,500 a year. The associated degree programme is for those who cannot gain places on university degree programmes. The tuition fee is more than $30,000 a year. Another youngster said that even if they applied for loans from the Government, they had to repay at high interest rates after graduation. Some youngsters suggested improving the Youth Pre-employment Training Programme, including extending the three-month, on-the-job training to nine months to help people find work. The programme is designed for school leavers aged 15 to 19. Mr Leung said he would consider their opinions, including the possibility of lowering the interest rates on student loans. But he said youngsters should not give in even though the economy had deteriorated recently. 'Your situation would not be much harder than mine when I was a child,' said Mr Leung. 'My family was so poor . . . today at least you can receive [nine years' free] education,' he said. Mr Leung said exam results were not the most important factor as long as youngsters continued to improve their knowledge. 'A working attitude and the incentive to upgrade yourself are also very important,' he said. 'Some of my former colleagues working in senior positions at my bank were not degree holders. But they could succeed because they kept on improving their knowledge. The world is fair. It is fair for those who are prepared.' Mr Leung was Asia-Pacific chairman of JP Morgan Chase before he accepted the position of Financial Secretary, taking over from Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in May.