The price of tertiary education is going up after the Minister of Higher Education gave public universities the go ahead to increase prices.
The decision taken by the Department of Higher Education and Training will see universities increase the price of tuition by 4.3% and student accommodation by 6.3%.
Despite this, some argue that the fee increase is not enough as universities are owed in excess of R15 Billion in student fees. This debt costs approximately R1 billion a year to service.
On the other side of the coin, the cost of tertiary education excludes many students from attending institutions of higher learning. This is especially true for people who fall in the so-called ‘missing-middle’.
Members of the missing middle do not qualify for funding from the state as they come from a household with a combined annual income of more than R350 000.
Asive Dlanjwa, Spokesperson of the South African Union of Students says the increases have no basis. He adds that the increases would be devastating for students, as many of their parents and guardians have lost income due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He adds that the increases will not only impact members of the missing middle but also students who entered tertiary education prior to 2018. This as the annual income threshold to qualify for state funding was at R120 000.
Dlanjwa says that the National Student Financial Aid Fund (Nsfas) announced they would have a shortfall of about R10 billion. This, he believes, could lead to the introduction of policies that would require students to pass 80% of their modules.
He believes that overhead costs for universities were also much less in the last two years as the Covid-19 pandemic saw students stay away from campuses.
Dlanjwa argues that there is also no political will to help accommodate the missing-middle students. He says the issue around funding these group of students remains to be ignored by the government.