Students from the Yale-NUS Liberal Arts College are petitioning against bonding to local companies for 3 years when they accept the Singapore Tuition Grant Scheme (TGS). TGS is a scheme that helps students pay for their tertiary education in Singapore and is offered to students of local universities, polytechnics and arts institutions etc.

According to students David Chia, Rohan Naidu, Tara Dear and Raeden Richardson, who circulated an open letter titled, “A Community of Earning? Why the Tuition Grant Scheme is Incompatible with a Liberal Arts Education,” they claim the liberal arts values taught at the College are incompatible with the TGS bond binding them to Singapore-registered companies for 3 years. Singaporeans are enrolled in the TGS automatically and do not have any bond obligations, but international students who do sign for TGS must find a job with a Singapore company within 12 months after graduation and if they default on their bond, they will be liable for “liquidated damages”, which is “the total amount of subsidy received by the Student, together with 10% compound interest per annum.”

The students argue that the TGS forces students to prioritize employment over academic interests, which is contrary to the liberal arts values of Yale-NUS. According to the students, Yale-NUS was founded to bring the liberal arts tradition to Asia and this meant students should be able to choose their course of study based on their passion. The problem is worsened by Employment Pass regulations in Singapore, which require workers to have a minimum salary of SGD $3600 to qualify. This rules out jobs with non-profits, non-governmental organizations or start up companies, which pay below that amount.

The students also raised other concerns about how the TGS restricts their choices of pursuing post-graduate studies and local internships.

They are asking Yale-NUS to provide financial aid to international students that would replace the need for them to apply for the TGS. The writers of the letter acknowledged that they had “benefited a lot from [the TGS],” and that Singaporean taxpayers’ money has supported their studies.

They have submitted their open letter, which gained over 120 signatories from Yale-NUS students, to the Yale-NUS governing board. The board has agreed to improve the transparency of the TGS to incoming students and to find solutions to the student’s complaints about pursuing post graduate studies and strict employment pass criteria.

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