The long debate on higher education’s 2017 fee increase is over as Higher Education minister Blade Nzimande finally approves fee hike for the 2017 academic year.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, the Nzimande announced that fee hike could not be avoided in order for higher institutions to finance itself but added that poor students will be covered by government.
“We have looked at the challenges at hand from all sides and have concluded that the best approach would be to allow universities individually to determine the level of increase that their institutions will require,” Nzimande said
The minister said Universities would be allowed to decide on their on the 2017 fee increase but warned that the increase had to be transparent, reasonable and linked to inflation.
“It must not go beyond 8% and those who must pay must pay,” he told journalists in Pretoria.
“With the caution that this has to also take into account affordability of students, and therefore has to be transparent, reasonable and related to inflation-linked adjustments, our recommendation is that the fee adjustments should not go above 8%.”
Nzimande said it would be unfair to expect universities to continue operating on less money considering the recent high cost of living and the high cost of doing business in the country in the past 12 months.
He, however, said SA government would continue searching for means to support the “missing middle” students, who cannot afford to pay but do not qualify for NSFAS funding.
He said the government would assist households with an income of up to R600 000 per annum with subsidy funding to cover the gap between the 2015 fee and adjusted 2017 fee at the relevant institutions.
“To ensure that such inflation-linked fees adjustments on the 2015 fees baseline are affordable to financially needy students, government is committed to finding the resources to support children of all poor, working and middle-class families – those with a household income of up to R600 000 per annum – with subsidy funding to cover the gap between the 2015 fee and the adjusted 2017 fee at their institution,” said Nzimande.
According to him also, all NSFAS qualifying students as well as the so-called ‘missing middle’ – that is students whose families earn above the NSFAS threshold but who are unable to support their children to access to higher education, will experience no 2017 fee increase. The Government will pay for the fee adjustment.”
Nzimande said as stakeholders wrestled on how to respond adequately, they knew the institutions had to be supported. “Starving them is not the way to go, the minister said.
“There’s no free higher education for everyone, we’re helping the students who come from poor families,” Nzimande concluded saying.