It may be that #FeesMustFall has stimulated creativity and urgency from the DHET ministry. What happens with student debt? Will higher education be free?
Expanding Access to Student Funding
The Minister says that they have expanded access to the poor through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
- During the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, government announced that it will provide an additional R9 billion for NSFAS over the period ahead, raising its funding by over 18% to universities over the next three years to assist poor and missing middle students.
- NSFAS will be funding 205 000 first time entering and continuing eligible students at universities and 200 000 students at TVET colleges in 2017, by providing student loans and bursaries totalling R15.2 billion.
- Government will pay the fee increase, capped at 8%, for all qualifying registered students with a gross combined family income up to R600000 per annum in 2017. This is a grant, which covers the increases for tuition fees and university or college-managed accommodation, and will not have to be repaid by qualifying students.
- This will benefit more than 75% of university and TVET college students, and in some institutions, more than 90% of students.
- DHET has made arrangements through NSFAS to pay the registration fees for all NSFAS funded students as an upfront payment to universities and TVET colleges in January each year. Therefore, NSFAS qualifying students will not pay any registration or upfront fees in 2017.
- Government has also addressed the issue of historical debt of NSFAS qualifying students. All NSFAS qualifying students who were registered in 2016, and were successful in their studies, but who have accumulated historical student debt with institutions of higher education, will be allowed to register in 2017.
- All universities will also develop processes to enable academically successful “missing middle” students who have outstanding student debt to register in 2017.
- Universities have also been requested to manage student debt through fair and transparent debt management policies in order to ensure that outstanding student debt is recovered over a reasonable period.
- During 2017, the Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme model, which is aimed at assisting the “missing middle”, will be piloted at six universities and one TVET college. The pilot will fund the studies of approximately 1 500 students studying in a number of general formative degrees as well as seven professional qualifications and one artisan qualification for the duration of their studies.
You Must Consider The Role of Critical and Scarce Skills when you Plan your Future
- The NSF makes further annual allocations aimed at funding the full cost of study towards critical skills programmes that are most needed for the growth and development of the economy.
- NSFAS has been allocated over R718 million for full bursaries for scarce and critical skills for the current year. This funding is made available through the financial aid offices at institutions, and students wishing to make use of these bursaries are advised to enrol for critical skills study programmes which include science, commerce, health sciences and engineering.
- The Department is also committed to expanding access and success in our institutions for students who have special needs. At TVET colleges, government pays 80% of the programme cost of the student’s choice, with an additional allocation being made dependent on the type and severity of the disability.
- In addition, NSFAS has earmarked R76.6 million in the 2017 academic year to provide financial aid to disabled students in universities.
- In order to assist learners to make informed career and study choices, the Department operates the Khetha multi-channel platform career development service which provides free access to career information, advice and guidance through telephone, SMS, social media, face-to-face and outreaches to schools among others.
- Over the past 2½ years, almost 51 000 individuals have made use of this service.
- Through the Khetha radio programme, the Department also reaches about 3.5 million listeners on 10 SABC African language radio stations, including Afrikaans, on a weekly basis.
If you still need information, advice and guidance on where to go after Grade 12, contact one of these services.
- The Department is also, again, operating the Central Application Clearing House (CACH) this month (January) and next month.
- The CACH service has been developed to assist learners who are eligible for higher education studies and have applied for a space at an institution, but have not been offered a place at the institution of their choice after the Grade 12 results were released.
- The CACH service aims to continually increase the placement ratio of prospective applicants into PSET opportunities.
- It is also accessible to those learners who did not apply before the closing dates last year and now find that they are eligible for higher education studies.
- Learners looking for spaces at PSET institutions can contact the toll-free call centre on 0800 356 635, or send an SMS with their name, ID and contact number to 49200 and they will be called back.
- They can also access the system via the website http://cach.dhet.gov.za or send an email to CACH@dhet.gov.za
- The CACH service will verify the learner’s information and forward it to institutions that still have unfilled places. Where places exist and applicants meet the admission requirements, institutions will contact learners to offer them available places.
Will Tertiary Education be Free?
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Funding of Higher Education and Training is also set to release its final report in mid-2017, making recommendations on the feasibility of implementing fee-free higher education and training in South Africa.