Zuma Announces Free Higher Education for Poor and Working Class Students

Elias Hubbard
December 16, 2017

Grants for poor and working class South African students at universities and TVET colleges will continue to be managed and administered by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme through their recently completed student centred-model. Free education, he said, would be available to these student in 2018, which is less than a month away.

This funding - which will cover the full cost of study including tuition fees, prescribed study material, meals, accommodation and transport - will be phased-in over a period of five years.

Zuma had also said that technical vocational education and training (TVET) colleges fees would be fully subsidised over the full period of study rather than just the first year, which was now the case, and that TVET student grants would be expanded to include a number of other costs.

All poor and working class South African students enrolled at public TVET Colleges will be funded through grants not loans.

The Higher Education Minister would revise this amount periodically in consultation with the Finance Minister.

Under Zuma's new "plan", the NSFAS would require a massive expansion to provide funding grants to students from families earning less than R350 000. Students considered to be in the "missing middle" (those in households earning more than R120 000 but less than R600 000) would have to find bursaries or make other sacrifices in order to pay tuition.

In the Heher Commission report, it was recommended that all students studying at both public and private universities, be funded through a cost-sharing model of a government guaranteed income-contingent loan, sourced from commercial banks.

Zuma's major announcement comes at the start of the ANC's 54th elective conference in Nasrec, Johannesburg on Saturday, where his successor will be elected by the governing party.

Zuma supported the Heher commission recommendation that TVET colleges are eligible for financial support from the government as this sector is facing severe financial pressure. He also made no mention on how government would fund grants for poor students.

This loan would then have to be paid back, but only once the student had graduated and passed a certain income threshold. But now, in their further years of study, they will instead receive a grant that will be administered by NSFAS.

The announcement by President Jacob Zuma that government will introduce fully subsidised free higher education and training for poor and working-class undergraduate students, while welcomed, is completely uncosted and therefore must be seen for what it is, playing politics with the hopes and futures of millions of young people, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Saturday. This solution was also proposed by the fees commission. Students from the Fees Must Fall movement would be disappointed.

"This policy intervention will enable government to extend fully subsidised free higher education to youth from well over 90% of South African households".

That government adopt an affordable plan to develop more student accommodation and that Historically Disadvantaged Institutions be prioritised.

Government will further investigate the viability of "online and blended learning" as an additional mechanism to deal with capacity challenges across the PSET sector.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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