Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande believes that free education at a tertiary level can be achieved, but only with the assistance of the private sector.
In an interview with the education minister, eNCA teased out a number of R37 billion required to roll-out free university over the next three years. However, the bulk of these funds would need to come from the private sector.
The higher education budget is currently at R41.8 billion, of which R26.2 billion is used for university subsidies and NSFAS funding.
“There is enough money in this country. The problem is that a lot of it is in the private sector,” Nzimande said in the interview at eNCA.
In an interview with Talk 702 last week, Nzimande said that the aim of government is to provide free education at a tertiary level for poor students – not for everyone.
“As a country we cannot afford this for everyone. Those who are wealthy must pay,” he said.
“At least we must be able to assist poor students over the years – like we have done quite impressively, to be honest – in terms of the national student financial aid scheme.”
When asked if government has no money to provide free tertiary education, the minister said: “The situation as it stands now is dire. Unless government decides to reprioritise, but the situation does not look good at all.”
Last week, president Jacob Zuma succumbed to student pressure by announcing that there will be no fee increases in universities for 2016.
The shortfall in university income for 2016 is estimated to be in the region of R3 billion, as a result.
The department for higher education aims to grow the headcount enrolment of 953,373 students in 2012 to approximately 1.1 million students in 2019, and to 1.6 million students in public universities by 2030.
“Your richer universities had committed that they are going to dip into some of their reserves to support this. And then the rest were saying it will have to come from government, but we’ve got to look at all sources that are possible both inside and outside government, as well as your rich universities, because not all universities can afford to pay even a cent towards this,” Nzimande told eNCA.