The Council on Higher Education (CHE) has recommended a 6.3% tuition and registration fee increase for tertiary education institutions next year.
Releasing its report into fee increases to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande yesterday, the CHE advocated for a scenario in which fees rise directly in line with inflation. The recommendation further wants an increase in the state subsidy for higher education from R19.6 billion in 2014/15 to R25.3 billion in 2017/18. University surpluses would decline by R4.1 billion between 2014/15 and 2016/17, and recover by R400 million in 2017/18.
The scenario also outlines a National Student Financial Aid Scheme shortfall of R1.7 billion in 2016 and R1.4 billion in 2017.
“The overall implication of this scenario is that… the system overall would be in a slightly stronger position than in 2016/17, but nearly half the universities would see a further deterioration in their financial position. The shortfall in NSFAS funding would be R300 million more than if there were no increase in fees,” the CHE held.
The recommendation will be a blow to the #FeesMustFall student movement, whose enthusiastic protests at the tail end of 2015 pushed Jacob Zuma into halting pending fee increases for 2016. Murmurings of discontent among some student bodies had already emerged by yesterday afternoon, with some threatening to take their displeasure to campuses next week.
But a person that is likely to welcome the 6.3% fee recommendation is deputy director-general of the budget office in National Treasury, Michael Sachs. He said yesterday that the announcement last year, to have a zero percent fee increase, was made when National Treasury was already in an advanced stage of preparing the budget.
“The truth is when you have an unplanned spending requirement it’s difficult to deliver the funds,” he said on the sidelines of the public hearings.
The estimated gap in this regard amounted to R6 billion, and, therefore, monies from other priorities had to be reallocated. Sachs said free higher education would weigh heavily on taxpayers.
“As a democratic society, if we determine that we want to go down this path of free education, we would then say we can fund it by raising taxes.
“But even so, the amount needed to fund free education, with the price tag being so large in size, meant that “we won’t even have enough”, said Sachs.
The CHE maintained that “with a fee increase at the level of consumer price inflation, the university sector would recover slightly overall, although 10 individual universities would be in a worse financial position in 2017/18 than they were in 2016/17, meaning either that their deficits increase or their surpluses are reduced.”