A BASIC degree may be an invaluable investment but it could come with a steep price tag.
Tertiary education can cost anywhere from RM30,000 to RM500,000 depending on the programme, institution and country.
And the bill goes up when there is more than one child in the family pursuing higher education at the same time.
With this and several other reasons in mind, the Star Education Fund was set up. The main objective was to provide scholarships to bright and needy students.
Star Education Fund secretary Ng Kok Wah says the fund was set up in 1994 to provide educational and training opportunities to deserving young Malaysians.
He said the fund has disbursed more than RM33mil worth of scholarship awards since its inception.
“This year, 359 scholarships worth RM10mil are being offered by the fund together with our 44 partners-in-education, both local and foreign.
“Students will have a wide spectrum of scholarships to choose from – vocational, diploma, degree and postgraduate studies at local private educational institutions as well as foreign universities,” he said during a talk on the Star Education Fund.
The fund is divided into two tiers with the first consisting of contributions made by The Star while scholarships in the second tier are from local and foreign higher educational institutions.
The contributors are Alif Creative Academy; Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology; Binary University College; Cybernetics International College of Technology, Equator Academy of Art Penang; FTMS; HELP University College; Institute Advertising Communication and Training; Informatics; Institut Perkim-Goon Penang; INTI College Malaysia; INTI College Subang; INTI International College Penang; KDU College Petaling Jaya; KDU College Penang; Kuala Lumpur Infrastructure University College; Kolej Disted-Stamford Penang; Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman; Kolej Universiti Teknologi dan Pengurusan Malaysia; Life College; Metropolitan College; Malaysia University of Science and Technology; Nilai International College; Penang Medical College; PJ College of Art and Design; Pusat Teknologi dan Pengurusan Lanjutan (PTPL) Shah Alam; Raffles Design Institute; Saito College; SAL Group of Colleges; Sentral Technology Institute Penang; SIT International College; Stamford College; Sunway University College; Taylor’s College; The One Academy of Communication Design; University College Sedaya International; Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman; Nottingham University Malaysia Campus; Systematic Education Group; PRIME College; Rima College; Limkokwing University College of Creative Technology; Northumbria University and University of East London.
Fund senior executive Katherine Poh advised students to apply for a course they are interested in.
“Only you know your strengths. As an example, if you want to do a degree in biotechnology or mass communications, it must be because your interests lie there and not because your friends are doing it,” she said to a room packed with over 400 people.
She reminded students that they should enjoy what they are studying.
“The course may be three or four years in duration and if you don’t enjoy what you are studying, your grades may suffer and this may affect your scholarship.
“If you are interested in a particular course offered under the Fund, you should visit the college’s booth to find out more,” she said.
On the selection criteria for the scholarships, Ng said a combination of factors is taken into consideration. These are academic performance, socio-economic considerations, participation in co-curricular activities, personal qualities and presentation skills.
“So if you have 3As but were very active in co-curricular activities in school, you will also be considered,” he said.
The tenure of the scholarship depends on the minimum period required by the recipient to complete the degree. As an example, he explained, the scholarship would be for three years for a three-year degree.
“The scholarship only covers tuition fees. It excludes board and lodging as well as other incidental fees such as laboratory or examination fees which recipients have to cover themselves.
“But if a recipient is from a rural area and would not be able to take up a scholarship as he is unable to afford board and lodging, then the college concerned may look at his case. However, this is on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
Ng explained that although there is no bond, recipients may be required to help the college during certain events such as Open Days. On how the applications forms could be obtained, he said students could pick one up from the Star Education Fund booth, download one from http://thestar.com.my/education/colleges/scholarships.htmlor submit a stamped (40 sen) self-addressed envelope (25cm x 30cm) to The Secretary, The Star Education Fund, c/o Star Publications (M) Bhd, P O Box 9116, Kelana Jaya, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
He reminded students to include their mobile phone numbers and an e-mail address where they could be contacted.
“We usually contact the short-listed candidates about three to four weeks after the closing date so we need a number where you can be reached,” he said.
Ng also advised students who were short-listed for the scholarship to prepare themselves for the fund interview. “Dress appropriately and do your homework on the course and college you are applying for. If we ask you what you are applying for, don’t say that you have forgotten,” he added.
Abdullah Mahat who attended the talk, said he wanted to know the different scholarship options available under the fund.
“My son is only sitting for his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) later this year but I wanted to be prepared. I found the talk very informative and I think more parents and their children should attend to get an idea of the cost of the various diplomas and degrees,” he said.
Kavita Gopalakrishnan who is waiting for her SPM results, is interested in applying for either an engineering or biomedical degree.
“I think it’s good that a combination of factors is taken into consideration when selecting potential scholarship recipients as not everyone will be able to score straight As,” she said.
The Star Education Fund booth had a constant stream of visitors and distributed more than 3,000 forms during the two-day fair.
The deadline for applications to the Star Education Fund is March 18.