Funding shortfalls haunt higher education

By MAYIBONGWE MAQHINA Time of article published Oct 26, 2017

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Parliament- National Treasury has painted a grim picture of the shortfalls in the funding of public higher education for the next three financial years.

This happens as all eyes are on President Jacob Zuma, who has yet to release the findings of the inquiry chaired by Justice Jonathan Heher into higher education and training.

Zuma received the final report in August.

“We await the president’s determination and announcement in this regard,” Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Wednesday.

The commission was established in January 2016, after protests at higher learning institutions nationwide.

This week, UCT vice-chancellor Max Price led the call for the release of the report in order to determine the fee increase for 2018.

Gigaba said they would make every effort to ensure that academically deserving students were not excluded due to financial constraints.

“Further announcements will be made in this regard in the 2018 budget.”

He also said students had correctly put the question of higher education at the centre of the transformation agenda.

“We cannot hope to grow and develop without the skills and intellectual capability that our universities and technical training colleges produce.”

The higher education budget would be increased from the R77billion allocated this year to R97bn in 2020/21, he said.

This includes the monies allocated to the National Financial Student Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to subsidise more than 450 000 students from poor households.

According to the National Treasury, the government proposes to allocate R11.1bn over the medium term for infrastructure projects at higher education institutions.

“Expanding student accommodation is a priority, and the Department of Higher Education and Training is refining a proposal to provide 300 000 new beds at public universities and TVET colleges by 2026.”

The allocation seems to counter the annual protests at universities over a shortage of student accommodation.

Full cost

However, the National Treasury’s budget document said there were funding shortfalls in the higher education sector.

“If NSFAS were to cover the full cost of study for the 30% of undergraduates who currently qualify, the scheme would require about R10.7bn in the 2018 academic year, in addition to the R11.4bn currently available.”

It noted that there had been proposals to extend the provision of financial aid to students from middle-income households.

“Estimates of the number of students falling within this threshold are unreliable. Government is working with universities to verify the data,” it said.

The report said additional funding would be required to cover the full cost of study for the various proportions of the undergraduate population that ranged from 40% to 75%.

“Extending funding to 40% of undergraduate(s) would ­create a shortfall of R17.7bn in 2018, or R61.7bn over the next three years.”

But, these amounts did not incorporate the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges which have separate funding from universities.

Treasury says to cover the full cost of study for all TVET students,would require an additional R7.1bn in 2018.

NSFAS financed 225 557 students in 2016.

Daily News

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