Government has come up with a number of short-term solutions to meet some of the demands that university students made during the #FeesMustFall campaign.
Government announced it would make R4.5bn available to the National Scheme Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to provide short-term debt relief to students.
This would help students who had enrolled for studies in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The money would also be used to plug the NSFAS’s funding shortfall for the 2016/17 academic years.
Another R2.3bn would be made available to cover the funding shortfall that would result from President Jacob Zuma’s announcement that there were would be no fee increases for the 2016 academic year.
“Government and the universities will make contributions towards addressing the shortfall,” Zuma said.
The student protests spread across the country two months ago and brought universities to a standstill.
On Friday, Zuma made a number of announcements based on a report compiled by a task team he appointed to investigate funding at universities.
The task team recommended that NSFAS improve its administration and communication with universities.
Students who met the NSFAS academic criteria and the universities’ criteria for proceeding to the next year of study should be funded for their whole qualification.
Universities should review and improve communication with students on all issues, including NSFAS matters.
A new financing model was needed which would incorporate options for funding at “favourable” interest rates, without the need to provide surety. This new model needed to include the banking sector and other businesses.
This had to be developed during 2016, be tested in the 2017 academic year, and implemented in 2018.
The task team identified four factors which could lead to new student protests, if not addressed:
– The upfront fee or registration payments at the start of the 2016 academic year;
– Debt accrued by students who qualified for NSFAS loans, but who were either unfunded or underfunded;
– Students who did not qualify for NSFAS funding;
– Demand for academic spaces by first-time students and those who had dropped out of the system previously because they could not afford tuition fees.
The team recommended that those who could afford to, should pay the upfront and registration fees.