Howard College building, University of Kwazulu Natal.
Pic: Supplied.
Howard College building, University of Kwazulu Natal. Pic: Supplied.

LETTER: South Africa needs a long-term solution for fees crisis

By Saif Soofie Time of article published Feb 19, 2020

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OPINION - Registration season continues at our tertiary institutions, and the jitters surrounding the non-payment of fees and registration have yet to subside. To its credit, the government has provided support in the form of millions of rand over the last three years to avoid the non-registration of students, especially for those in the final semester of degrees.

However, it should to be apparent that this is not sustainable.

We need extensive dialogue around a long-term plan for sustainable tertiary education financing. It’s understood that the government and universities have their own financial obligations, which must take some precedence.

However, an investment in our human capital is likely to reap far more dividends for our society going forward, instead of having to contend with the cost of inaction.

A comprehensive re-examination of the funding model for tertiary education should take into account the needs of students in poorer households, the increase in demand for tertiary education, and the country’s current and long-term economic challenges. This new model needs to enhance access to and expand higher education.

Part of the problem is universities are seen to be competing with students for scarce resources in order to run the institution efficiently. To ease the burden of expenditure on the primary consumers - students - universities must consider enhancing their sources of other revenue (rental income, commercialising their research, etc) so an over-reliance on tuition fees to fund operations does not exist. Fees could be lowered, or increased in smaller increments.

Additionally, the private sector, while providing much-needed and appreciated bursaries, could engage in a public-private partnership with the government that would see the former willing to specially subsidise the fields of study of greatest demand, based on market surveys.

This would lower the overall cost because of the returns that would accrue to the economy due to the filling of labour gaps.

Supporting students with tuition fees is not a waste of money. It is an investment in a stronger, more educated country.

Saif Soofie Durban

Daily News

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