As the volatile 2017 tertiary education academic year begins, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande on Thursday said government has prepared several packages to assist the poor and calm the sector which has been rocked by violent protests and instability.
“Government will pay the fee increase, capped at 8 percent, for all qualifying registered students with a gross combined family income up to R600 000 per annum in 2017. This is a grant, which covers for tuition fees and university or college managed accommodation, and will have to be repaid by the qualifying students,” Nzimande told reporters at a briefing in Pretoria.
He said this offer will benefit more than 75 percent of university and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) college students, and in some institutions, more than 90 percent of students.
“We’ve also gone further and made arrangements through NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) to pay the registration fees for all NSFAS funded students as an upfront payment to universities and TVET colleges in January each year. Therefore, NSFAS qualifying students will not pay any registration fees,” said Nzimande.
“Government has also addressed the issue of historical debt of NSFAS qualifying students. All NSFAS qualifying students who were registered in 2016, and were successful in their studies, but who have accumulated historical debt with institutions of higher education, will be allowed to register in 2017.”
He said all universities will develop processes to enable academically successful “missing middle” students who have outstanding debt to register in 2017.
Nzimande said NSFAS has been allocated over R718-million for full bursaries for scarce and critical skills for this current year.
Of the 610 178 grade 12 learners who wrote their matric examinations last year, 162 374 are eligible for admission to bachelor studies, 179 619 are eligible for admission to diploma studies and 100 486 qualify for admission to higher certificate studies.
“In 2017, our public universities will provide access to about 197 400 new entrants wishing to pursue their studies across all general, technical and professional fields. Included here are three new universities – Sol Plaatjie University, the University of Mpumalanga and the Sefako Makgatho Sciences University,” said Nzimande.
He said there are approximately 505 731 opportunities available within the post-school education and training system.