‘NUS Students United’ Page Publishes Exposé On Compulsory Student Tax

Move aside NUS ‘Nice Guy’ Stalker, and say hello to an alleged student tax conspiracy.

Facebook page ‘NUS Students United’ uploaded a scathing exposé on 31 Aug, containing detailed allegations against the executive committee of their student union.

They’ve CSI-ed year-on-year (YoY) increases in NUS tuition fees across courses and claim that prices are “outstripp(ing) inflation”.

Additionally, the page questions where compulsory taxes of “more than $1.3 million” from students have been budgeted or used.

Our best bet is that some brilliant accounting students are somehow involved in compiling the evidence, due to the sheer detail.

But let’s dive straight into the meat and potatoes of the issue.

1. Compulsory undergraduate tax of $24

For every academic year, NUSSU taxes every full-time undergraduate student $24.

Here’s the breakdown of where the tax goes:

  • NUSSU Exco – $8
  • Faculty Club – $8
  • Political Association – $1.44
  • Sports Club – $3.92
  • Cultural Activities Club – $1.44
  • Community Services Club – $1.20

Taxes are compulsory even if the undergraduate is not involved in activities from the 4 non-faculty clubs. The page claims there is “no option” for students to “opt out of paying”.

Students allege that NUSSU Exco and its constituent clubs have not publicly been upfront with their financial statements since Aug 2016.

With full-time undergraduate NUS cohorts hitting 27,702 (2017) and 28,134 (2018), the total amount of student taxes collected amounts to $1.3 million.

2. Million-dollar investments in NUS’ funds

With clubs accessing a pool of reserves – presumably from student taxes – NUSSU and their clubs are known to invest in NUS’ Short Term Investible Funds.

Money earned from these investments are made known to NUSSU annually, and credited to their accounts.

As per the study, this amount hit $4.3 million for NUSSU, of which $3.2 million were from their executive committee.

Students further CSI-ed NUSSU’s AGM reports, and uncovered the following investment figures:

  • $3,424,415.47 (12 Sep 2013)
  • $2,924,415.47 (1 Dec 2013), $500k donated to NUS Financial Aid
  • $3,281,370.99 ( 1 Dec 2014)
  • $3,324,849.13 (1 Dec 2015)
  • $4,767,603.15 (19 Aug 2017) – NUSSU Exco + Clubs

As can be observed, there seems to be an “increase in invested amounts”, without proper disclosure on their returns.

Furthermore, this sum includes money from current NUS students & alumni, who may be interested to know what these investments are spent on.

3. Tuition fees seem to outpace inflation

After deducting MOE’s Tuition Grant, the study claims to observe these 4 things:

  1. Undergraduate tuition fees are higher than inflation rates
  2. YoY fee increases peaked in AY13/14, but have slowed down
  3. Dentistry, Medicine (non-Nursing) & Music courses still see YoY increases
  4. Law degree prices increased significantly until AY 16/17

Source

Most of all, the NUS Students’ Union (NUSSU) seems to be unnaturally quiet about these tuition fee increases.

Full disclosure please

All in all, students aren’t alleging “any financial, accounting or legal impropriety” on the taxes, as they believe that NUS internal audits are satisfactory.

What they are seeking is full disclosure from the leaders of these clubs as to how the taxes have been spent.

This is so that students may scrutinise the funding choices for certain initiatives, as part of “good and moral governance”.

Although annual statement of accounts used to be disclosed in their AGM reports, students cite a lack of proper formatting and omission of statements in recent years.

Long story short

NUS students do seem to have a legit case on asking for greater accountability on funds they’ve paid.

We’re also very impressed at the amount of CSI-effort that went into this exposé.

But is this too much accountability to ask for $24 per person? Or should this case warrant a proper investigation?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Featured image from NUS Students’ Union and NUS Students United.