What you need to save to send your child to university in South Africa – starting from when they’re born

 ·29 May 2024

Although the cost of living in South Africa continues to strain households, experts warn that the longer you wait to start saving for your children’s education expenses, the harder it will be.

There are over 20 public universities in South Africa, and tuition fees vary depending on the university’s policy, the type of study, and the course length.

However, according to data from Old Mutual, the average cost of sending a graduate to university in South Africa in 2023 and 2024 is R55,900.

Concerningly, this cost is expected to rise to R95,700 by 2030 and reach R177,200 by 2038.

Understanding the rapidly increasing cost of education is crucial, especially given the tough economic environment South Africans face in 2024, which has started to bite parents—especially young families.

Curro noted in its financial results published in March that enrolment numbers showed that some parents are struggling due to the higher cost of living in South Africa.

The group said young families have been hit hard by the rampant hikes in the cost of living in South Africa, which has resulted in a reduction in the enrolments of learners in the youngest grades of primary schools.

Furthermore, a survey conducted by 1Life noted that 65% of parents were very worried about paying school fees in general.

According to Marnus Mostert, a franchise principal and financial adviser, navigating debt obligations in South Africa poses a significant challenge, especially given the prevailing high interest rates.

As a result, he added that individuals, including parents, find themselves halting education payments to address pressing debt concerns.

“This short-term solution, however, overlooks the plethora of strategies available to manage debt while still pursuing essential financial objectives like education,” said Mostert.

He stressed that the longer you wait to start saving for your children’s education expenses, the harder it will be.

To illustrate this, Mostert showed the escalating monthly payments required to afford a 3-year degree considering university fees in 2024—as estimated by Old Mutual—and how hard it gets the longer you wait.

Age of child when you start savingMonthly instalment neededInvestment value now
0R1 118R199 801
5R1 414R190 802
10R2 097R182 209
15R5 100R174 003
Assumptions: 3-year degree, annual contribution increases of 6%, expected growth rate of 8%, and education inflation of 9%.

Mostert’s calculations show that saving just over R1,000 a month from when the child is born will build to almost R200,000—which could comfortably cover three years’ tuition fees and any miscellaneous expenses.

However, if you wait until your child is 15 years old, the monthly instalments needed quadruple, and the value drops to R174,000.

While both scenarios come close in value, the latter of over R5,000 per month could put a family into trouble if the economy experiences any turmoil—much like South Africa and many other parts of the world after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Budgeting, often underestimated, holds significant power, particularly for parents, as education gains increasing importance in society,” said Mostart.


Read: How much you need to earn to send your kids to private school in South Africa

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