Far from offering free higher education, President Jacob Zuma'sreport of the Commission on the Feasibility of Fee-Free Higher Education and Training in South Africa might actually harm disadvantaged students, creating a student loan debt crisis similar to that of the USA and the United Kingdom, according to experts.
The commission recommended that government increase its expenditure on higher education and training to at least 1% of the GDP, in line with comparable economies, and also recommended that application and registration fees be scrapped across the board.
The report concluded that tertiary education should be funded through a cost-sharing model that includes the government and banks.
"We recommend that this should move to 100% funding directly from the [department]", the commission said. Nothing positive has come out from the commission.
Vice-Chancellor of TUT, Professor Lourens van Staden was concerned about the timing of the report's release. Thus, unless we get the political leadership that is willing to nationalise the mines and banks to expand its fiscal capabilities, education will always be the reserve of the rich as it is recommended by the Higher Commission. "I think they are using this free education thing for the 2019 elections to keep the ANC in power", Mamkeli added.
Khakhau believes the government is not giving universities enough money to operate.
The Sunday Times revealed Zuma wanted to institute free higher education as early as February this year but was stopped by shocked Treasury officials. "There is a lot of money that needs to be channelled in the right way because we know for a fact that it can fund free education for the undergraduate student".
Stellenbosch University has declined to comment for now. This meant these students missed the start of the academic year and, for first-year students, missed important events like first-year orientation. Its financial committee will make budgetary recommendations regarding for 2018, including an announcement about tuition fees, on 23 November, after which Council will make a final decision. The National Students' Financial Aid Scheme would still be used for Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges (see point three).
"There should be free education for the poor, a subsidy for the missing middle and dependable income".
President of the University of Cape Town's Student Representative Council (SRC) Karabo Khakhau is anxious about where the money is going to come from and if it will cover all students including the poor and the so-called missing middle.
The report was released as the Studied in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII) released a report yesterday on their recent probe into the realisation of decent work in South Africa. "We feel like they disregarded the rest of our suggestions", she said.
"NSFAS is a loan and they are trying to find another loan system?"