Higher Education, Science and Innovation minister Blade Nzimande says his department is working on a new funding model for university and college students.
Presenting his departmental budget speech on Thursday (2 June), Nzimande said the updated model is to be presented to president Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet by July.
“Government has committed and is working upon a comprehensive student funding model for our universities and colleges.
“As part of the development of our comprehensive student funding model, through the ministerial task team on student funding, we are engaging both the public and private components of the financial sector to come up with a funding model to support students in the ‘missing middle’ income bracket and post-graduate students who cannot secure funding from the National Research Foundation.”
This model will incorporate the existing funding available from the state and explore alternative funding sources, he said.
In February, Nzimande announced a CPI-linked increase in tuition fees for 2022, noting that the sector is heavily reliant on tuition and residence fee income for universities to remain operational.
Data shared by Nzimande shows that student debt has grown in the country’s university sector significantly in recent years.
Unaudited data showed that an estimated R6.1 billion was owed by students at the start of the 2021 academic year.
Audited accumulated gross student debt as of the end of December 2020 was R16.5 billion. This amount included students who have exited university, carrying debt.
A survey conducted by the department in 2021 showed that an estimated 56.2% of students with debt owed less than R10,000; 32.9% owed between R10,000 and R50,000, while 10.9% owed more than R50,000. The survey also showed that NSFAS students owed R5.3 billion.