To help cushion the blow of Covid-19 on the country’s schooling system and the 2020 academic year, Higher Education Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, has published a national framework to guarantee that the cost for tuition and accommodation will remain the same for the 2020 academic year - regardless of its length at the different institutions.
In June of this year, the Higher Education and Training Department created a structure for temporary payment and cash flow measures and outlined the steps necessary to alleviate, contain and minimise the impact of Covid-19 on the public higher education sector.
“The framework will also provide directives to officials of public higher education institutions to disseminate information and all applicable measures for the implementation [of the framework],” said Nzimande.
Nzimande said that this will help to alleviate the financial burden on institutions such as NSFAS as well as private fee-paying individuals and private accommodation providers, recognising that the Covid-19 pandemic affects all groups in different ways.
Because institutions were forced to close during the lockdown, the academic time table will be extended beyond this calendar year.
NSFAS’ payment agreement will stay the same regardless of how long it takes learners to finish this year’s curriculum; this agreement includes university-owned accommodation fees.
Student Accommodation fees
The cost for students to stay in university-owned accommodation will also stay the same until the end of March 2021, assuming that most students will return to the dorms to complete the academic year.
The cost for university-leased accommodation will also stay the same, regardless of its length, subject to an agreement that the original fee would be paid for both the 2020 and the 2021 academic years, with an agreed inflation-linked increase for 2021.
“This means that wherever possible, the costs of both academic years would be conceptualised as a package and payments spread out over the full period,” Nzimande explained.
He added that, where there are periods when students are not occupying their dorm, monthly payments can be reduced, based on a payment regime that spreads out the agreed costs over the extended 2020 academic year.
In terms of individually based private housing, where students make payments themselves, this rule will apply to university accredited and registered private accommodation as far as possible.
Nzimande said that students have been receiving their NSFAS allowances throughout the lockdown period and therefore, are expected to keep paying for private accommodation.
Where possible though – colleges and universities are encouraged to reach an agreement with student housing providers to reduce costs during times of non-occupation, but with the full payment spread over the extended academic year.
“It must be noted that there is currently a process underway to model and plan for any additional academic year costs for NSFAS funded students.
“Currently no funding has been allocated or approved for additional academic year costs in 2020,” said the Minister.