Rising university fees and a drop in funding for student loans are making it harder for regional Vietnamese students to survive in the cities.
In 2009, the decision was made to gradually raise the cost of higher education fees to 240,000VND per month (approximately $11AUD) from the 180,000VND per month (approximately $8.3AUD) it had been previously.
More recently, the Ministry of Finance announced in October that it had budgeted 2.5 trillion VND this year on its student loan scheme, compared to the 8 trillion VND per year it had previously been spending per annum.
However Mr Nguyen Binh, the vice-dean of the Faculty of International Studies at Hanoi University, says it is not up to the government to support students.
“I think training institutions need to find ways to also encourage the students, especially for the poor family students, to continue education and training, especially at the high levels like university and post-university,” he said.
Students agree that more emphasis should be put on the universities to find ways to assist students, as the Government is already assisting through subsidies
“I think the Government of Vietnam helps the Vietnamese students to pay a lot of money for their studying, so I think many Vietnamese students don’t face many difficulties when they have to pay the fee for the university,” said Thuy Linh, a student at Hanoi University.
However Linh also pointed out that while financing options are not a major issue for urban students, those from poorer families are finding it more difficult to afford their university education.
“Not many students (from rural areas) can pass the entrance exam…(because they don’t have the support) and the education conditions in rural areas is not good.”
“I know some (students from a rural area) but if they can study here, they need to prepare much about the finance for the study here.”
Professor Bruce Chapman from the Australian National University, who designed the Australian loan system known as the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), said Vietnam needs to reform its current student loan system.
“The critical point is the collection of loans,” he said.
“An income contingent collection basis is far and away the most preferable, but for this to work there needs to be an efficient income tax system.”
The decision to decrease the funding for student loans comes as very few students are taking up the loans.
Indeed Hanoi University student Duc Le says that in spite of the rising costs, he doesn’t think the loan program will work effectively because very few students even know about the loans.
“We can borrow money from them and then pay back the Government, but I don’t know any specific procedures to do that and actually I don’t care about that,” said Duc.
“It’s not so popular for students.”
The rise in fees means that the total cost of university fees are expected to take up approximately a fifth of a student’s income, while the loan provides for approximately a quarter of the expected living expenses of students.
Photography: Lucy-Ellen Steadman