The ROI on a University Education

I should probably get a graduate to write this but for now, you’ll have to content yourself with my opinion. I’m at the halfway mark of my own education so I think I’m qualified to give an opinion on what I think so far.

I’ll come back in two years and let you know again. Hold me to this promise.

I don’t have hard numbers for this, but I would venture to say that the average working age in Singapore is, correct me if I’m wrong because Google didn’t yield many results, 24 years old. There’s variation but generally, for local universities, the youngest to graduate would be 22 years old (if you came straight to a full-time four year degree course in a local university from a junior college).

I’ve always felt like, if you’re from NS and planning to go to a local university, it’s a drag because you graduate when you’re 24 years old (if you’re from polytechnic, it’s even older or if you took a gap year between). It feels like a lot of wasted time to only start your first job then.

It’s a drag, I do not envy them even if it does delay the inevitable misery that is working life.

It’s for this reason that I think a part-time university education or a shorter private university degree programme would be preferable.

But to the broader question I’m asking in the title here, what’s the ROI on a local university education?


Usually, a local university degree is four years. It could be as short as 3 years if you’re exempted from some modules or if your degree is shorter (like NTU’s business degrees).

That’s four years of tuition fees, though admittedly much cheaper than a private university education.

A private university education can easily be up to 30K for a tw0-year programme (depends on which), a local university’s tuition fee is roughly 30K for the entire four-year programme.

Taking a bank loan could also mean hefting more weight onto it as well because they charge an interest of 3% to 6%.

But if you’re counting it by time, you could comp the entire of an accelerated programme in two years if your job pays decently. From what I know, the shortest accelerated programme is offered by SIM and is nine months for a BA in Communications.

You could get financial aid but it isn’t a guarantee.

If you have to think about how to make ends meet, you’re in a rush for time, or eager to work and gain experience, local four-year isn’t your best bet.


On another note about how a local university programme is four years. The average age for marriage for Singaporeans is 30 years old.

If you plan to get married early and want to have a HDB, you’d want to have some money in CPF and that means you have to work.

I think you could absolutely get married at age 30, after having graduated at age 24, that’s fine. But if you’re graduating later, I think it’s something to keep in mind.


Many people go to university because it’s required for entry-level jobs and it usually promises a higher starting pay. The average starting pay of a polytechnic graduate is 1.8K. The Straits Times says it’s $2.2K which is….a lot, especially given the economy is so bad now so that this is dubious to me so we’ll go with 1.8K.

The average starting pay of a university undergrad from my course is $2.5K.

That’s a difference of roughly ~$700.

But again, if you worked for the same four years that I spent studying, I’m guessing your salary would likely be higher than mine by the time I join the workforce.

So, money-wise, starting work earlier is a surer bet.


Sometimes, you just want to delay the inevitable.

The average Singaporean lifespan is about 80~ years old. If you started working at age 20 and retired by age 60, that’s half your life spent working.

So if you’re into enjoying more of life, a longer uni education could be ideal.


One of the things I’m grateful for in a university education is the breadth of the classes and the ability to study what you’re interested in.

Yes, I do enjoy my own major modules but I am so appreciative of the chance to study modules in faculties that aren’t my own.

I didn’t imagine that I would be able to take the kinds of classes I do and my professors have been wonderfully passionate about what they’re teaching. Their fervour for knowledge in such a specific, niche area has left an impression on me. (Because if this dude is this excited for recycling, I can be just as excited for my own boring interest.)

It’s one thing to learn about something you’re interested in; quite another to know that everyone in that classroom or lecture hall is there by choice.


I had more points, and I might come back to this again to add more stuff or edit it. But IN CONCLUSION, (funny story: the first ever essay I submitted in uni, the prof asked me to see me and asked why my organisation was so terrible so I diligently now write IN CONCLUSION in every essay) the ROI on a university education can’t be quantified because it’s dependent on what you want to get out of it.

I could be technical and see if the wage increase is as advantageous as everyone says or if the glut of graduates means we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.

It’s dependent on skill set. Some industries require a specific skill set, like knowing how to use a programme or such. If the university didn’t equip you with those, then it’s lacking.

I could say it’s not quantifiable because it’s the memories. I mean, I guess. It is true.

But truly, IN CONCLUSION, you have to make what you have out of things. What a university education has given me is the knowledge that you cannot be contented with yourself. There is always more to go; more to learn. For that alone, I’d say the ROI on my own university education is far more than the two years I’ve given it.

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