While the presidential task team’s recommendations on short term student funding may help quash further protests by students at South Africa’s universities, there is still a need for adequate financial aid to allow all students to enrol at institutions without prohibition.
This is according to the Vice-Chancellors, Principals and Rectors representing 26 universities in the country.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) shortfall has been quantified at R4.582 billion and the task team recommends that R2.543 billion of this amount must be made available from the fiscus. This in the form of loans to provide short-term debt relief to 71 753 students who were funded inadequately or were unable to access financial aid over the 2013 to 2015 academic years.
The further R2.039 billion is required in the 2016-17 financial year to ensure currently unfunded continuing students receive NSFAS support in the 2016 academic year.
But in a joint statement the Vice-Chancellors said: “We … continue to call for adequate financial aid to allow all academically qualified students to enrol at universities, accommodated within our enrolment plans, without prohibition. We also amplify the call for better subsidisation of the university sector by the state, in line with the current and projected growth of the sector.”
They further called on all actors in society to prioritise the funding of higher education, and in doing so “invest in developing the high-level intellectual capacity that is desperately needed to secure our collective futures”.
The Vice-Chancellors said the 0% fee increase in 2016 – a result of the countrywide #FeesMustFall protest by students – would offer some reprieve to students, but funding was based on a cost sharing model.
This meant for the state subsidies each student receives, students are, in turn, expected to pay their own contribution.
- The committee made a number of short-term recommendations to address financial challenges. They include: A short-term solution for the 0% fee increment. R2.3 billion will be made available to address this shortfall. Government and the universities will make contributions towards addressing the shortfall.
- Upfront fee and registration payments should be implemented across the system for those who can afford to pay. Students who meet the NSFAS means test should not be required to pay upfront payments