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What you need to know about local/overseas universities

15 Jan 2021

Most parents work hard to send their kids to a university as a first step toward securing their future success. Tuition fees constitute a considerable part of the cost at local as well as overseas universities. To get a head start on financial planning for children’s tertiary education, you need to learn more about the fees involved.

1. Tuition fees of local universities

According to the current Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS), annual tuition fees for UGC-funded programmes of eight universities in Hong Kong (mainly bachelor's degree) are approximately HK$42,100, which means a total of HK$168,000 for four years. Tuition fees for self-financing programmes, such as the post-secondary education programmes at the level of associate degree, higher diploma etc. can be up to HK$90,000 per year.

2. Grants and loans

Hong Kong government has launched two major programmes to assist students or families to handle the university cost -- The Tertiary Student Finance Scheme - Publicly-funded Programmes (TSFS) and the Financial Assistance Scheme for Post-secondary Students (FASP).

The former is for undergraduate students of the eight universities and the latter is for students pursuing full-time post-secondary education programmes at the level of associate degree and higher diploma in a self-financed institute. Both schemes require a means test and consist of two components: “grant and loan”.

“Grant” does not need to be repaid. The ceiling for assistance under TSFS is the tuition fee for the whole of the academic year, while the ceiling of FASP are tuition fee grants of HK$87,000. Both schemes provide low-interest loans for student living expenses. The loan is interest-bearing (1% per annum) .

In addition, there are Non-Means-Tested Loan Schemes, which means that the applicant’s family income is not considered. The interest rate is around 1% per annum, subject to adjustment, for these loans.

3. Tuition fees for overseas studies

In recent years, many parents have decided to send their children abroad for studies. Based on the current market information, tuition fees and living expenses for international students tend to exceed HK$1 million.

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Source: Ming Pao, 2017

4. Education Funds

Given the significant cost, many parents invest their savings in funds offered by financial institutions and insurers. Such funds are designed to accumulate savings for providing tuition fees and living expenses of the students at the right time. These products generally offer payment of a guaranteed amount during the studies (for a period of four years). The plans on the market can be broadly classified into fixed interest and investment.

A fixed interest plan is generally a savings insurance with lower risk. It carries an annual interest rate of only 3-5%, and the insurer distributes the dividends on an annual basis. If investors are able to bear higher risks, education fund schemes with higher yield may be the preferred choice. There is generally a basket of funds from which one can select, such as equity funds and bond funds.

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