Johannesburg - The National Treasury "notes the announcement by the presidency" on free higher education on Saturday morning and is in the process of reviewing the details of the higher education proposals, as well as possible financing options, the Treasury said.
"The proposal will also be considered by the ministers' committee on the budget (MinComBud) and the presidential fiscal committee. Any amendments to existing spending and tax proposals will be announced at the time of the 2018 budget," it said in a brief statement.
Earlier on Saturday, Zuma announced that government would extend fully subsidised free higher education to “poor and working class” youth from 2018.
Read more: Read Zuma's fees announcement here
Government would increase subsidies to universities from 0.68 percent to one percent of GDP over the next five years as recommended by the Heher Commission of Inquiry into higher education and training, the presidency said in a statement responding to the commission’s recommendations.
Regarding public universities, “as a result of this substantial increase in subsidy to universities there will be no tuition fee increment for students from households earning up to R600 000 a year during the 2018 academic year”, the presidency said.
“Noting our nation’s staggering levels of income inequality and considering the definition of poor and working class students that has remained stagnant and outdated despite the escalating cost of living and studying, and in order to maximise the developmental impact of our pro-poor higher education policies, the definition of poor and working class students will now refer to ‘currently enrolled TVET colleges or university students from South African households with a combined annual income of up to R350 000' by 2018 academic year. The minister of higher education and training shall revise this quantum periodically in consultation with the minister of finance,” the statement said.
Having amended the definition of poor and working class students, government would now introduce fully subsidised free higher education and training for poor and working class South African undergraduate students, starting in 2018 with students in their first year of study at public universities. Students categorised as poor and working class, under the new definition, would be funded and supported through government grants, not loans.
The provision of fully subsidised free education and training would be extended to all current and future poor and working class South African students at all public technical vocational education and training (TVET) colleges starting in 2018 and phased-in over a period of five years, the statement said.
“All poor and working class South African students enrolled at public TVET colleges will be funded through grants not loans. For TVET colleges, full cost of study will include tuition fee, prescribed study material, meals, accommodation, and/or transport.”
National Student Financial Aid Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) packages already allocated to existing NSFAS students in their further years of study would be converted from loans to 100 percent grants effective immediately, the presidency said.