on 21 November 1997
ITEM FOR FINANCE COMMITTEE
HEAD 173 - STUDENT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE AGENCY
Subhead 275 Student travel scheme
Members are invited to approve an expansion of the ambit of the Student Travel Scheme to include eligible students aged over 25.
Full-time students aged over 25 are currently not eligible for travel subsidy under the Student Travel Scheme (STS), even if they meet the means test and other criteria.
2.With the support of the Secretary for Education and Manpower, the Controller, Student Financial Assistance Agency (C, SFAA) proposes to expand the ambit of the STS with effect from the 1998/99 academic year to cover students aged over 25 who meet all the other existing criteria.
3.The STS provides, on a means-tested basis, travel subsidy to full-time students aged between 12 and 25 who have not yet completed their first degree studies and who live beyond ten minutes' walking distance from their places of study. Students over 25 are not eligible for any student travel subsidy, regardless of their financial needs. We consider this age criterion not appropriate, particularly when there is an increasing number of mature students pursuing full-time tertiary education. If these students could demonstrate their need for financial assistance, we should likewise provide them with travel subsidy. We therefore propose to remove the upper age limit of the STS to bring its eligibility criteria in line with those adopted in other means-tested financial assistance schemes for tertiary students. This proposal is also in line with the Government's policy that no qualified student should be denied access to full-time tertiary education because of a lack of means.
4.Based on the preliminary results of the STS application exercise in the 1997/98 academic year and the latest projections on the student profile, C, SFAA estimates that the proposal will benefit about 375 students at an additional recurrent cost of $744,000.
5.Subject to Members' approval, we will include sufficient provision in the 1998-99 draft Estimates to meet the cost of the proposal.
6.At present, the STS provides travel subsidy to needy full-time students up to first degree level who are aged between 12 and 25 and live beyond ten minutes' walking distance from their places of study. Applicants are subject to a means test. Needy students who pass the means test will receive a subsidy for home-school travel during term time at the rate of half the average adult fares on public transport between the student's residence and the location of his school. The Transport Department develops and annually updates a fare matrix to determine the level of the travel subsidy.
Education and Manpower Bureau