The Fees Commission, set up in 2016 following the violent protests that rocked Higher Education Institutions, submitted their findings to the President on Thursday, 31 August 2017.
The Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) is of the opinion that this was yet another delaying tactic employed by the ANC government to divert attention from the fact that this crisis was caused by the two decades of neglect and underfunding of this vital sector by the ANC.
Nonetheless, to address the higher education funding crisis and to ensure that no student is excluded because they cannot afford to further their education, the Democratic Alliance made extensive submissions to the Fees Commission.
In order for DASO to advocate for the funding model in the financial budget review in Parliament, we need the president to act.
We, therefore, call on President Zuma to review the report urgently and to release it to the public within 10 working days.
In the DA’s submissions to the Commission we made arguments for:
- Protecting against rampant fee increases while improving the quality of education by restoring state subsidies to Universities to an appropriate level;
- Funding NSFAS at a higher level, using updated and nuanced criteria, to provide adequate support for the poor and “Missing Middle”.
- Continuing to collect fees from the wealthy.
- Stabilising University student numbers so as to permit stabilisation of funding whilst at the same time fixing the TVET sector so as to make it a credible career path in order to find a decent job within our economy.
- Revising the subsidy formula in order to ensure the sustainability of universities and improve the quality of graduates.
- Expanding NSFAS criteria to include students from the “Missing Middle” immediately so that all applicants from households with an annual income of up to R500 000 have a fair chance to apply for student financial aid;
- Introducing a tiered system of loans/grants so that those in the “Missing Middle” who can afford to pay a portion of their expenses receive proportional assistance
- Ensuring that no university student who successfully obtains an award under NSFAS receives less than his or her full cost of study, residence costs, and adequate food, books stipend and transport where necessary (subject to the tiered system);
- Simplify and streamline the NSFAS process to minimise administrative costs and prevent surpluses.
- Significant efforts should be made to increase third stream income as a source of finance but it cannot realistically be considered the route to meeting current shortfalls.
- Exploring a variety of alternative funding sources, including:
- Setting up partnerships with the private sector, and the banking sector, in particular, to increase access to loans, improve the efficiency of collections and widen the pool of funds available.
- Reducing the number of prestige items in the national budget and redirecting the funds towards University education
- Developing a more efficient debt-collection system within NSFAS
- Ensuring that more students obtain loans than bursaries from NSFAS to protect funding for future generations.
DASO has also committed to the following plan of action to ensure that no student is left behind:
- Protesting at ANC offices across the country to have the fees commission report implemented;
- We will continue to oppose shutdowns which have patently prejudiced poor students the worst and have done nothing to affect the patronage priorities of the ANC government;
- We will also be taking on SETAs who are not paying out students with the massive budgets that are being largely mismanaged and advocating for an increase in internships/apprentices for TVET college students;
- We will be making overtures to business people and to the private sector at large in order to encourage the availability of more bursaries and employment opportunities, especially work-based experience for our graduates;
- DASO will support the Democratic Alliance’s call in parliament tomorrow to call for emergency elections. It is vital that we continue to lobby for the best interests of citizens and students to ensure that we achieve total change and a new beginning.
The ANC government has failed the youth of South Africa and the status quo cannot continue. It can no longer be business as usual while our brothers and sisters continue to live in dire poverty when students are forced to pack their bags and go home due to lack of funding when our students sleep in offices and bathrooms because they cannot afford accommodation.
We can no longer remain silent while students go to bed on empty stomachs, while they have no proper infrastructure and are subjected to the outdated curriculum in our TVETs, while those who surpass all obstacles are denied their certificates due to funding.
Essentially, DASO is calling for free quality higher education for the poor, subsidies for the missing middle and those who can afford must fund themselves based on the full cost of study.
We will do all this in line with our vision of an open and free educational environment that is uniquely South African, in which every person has the Freedom to pursue their own aspirations, Fairness to chase their dreams and turn them into a reality and in which every person has the Opportunity to improve the quality of their life.
For the full brief of today’s press conference click here.