More plans for ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing

CityPress - - Business - DEWALD VAN RENSBURG dewald.vrens­burg@city­press.co.za

The con­cept of ac­cess to higher ed­u­ca­tion still needed to be prop­erly de­fined, said Sizwe Nx­as­ana, chair of the Na­tional Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme (Ns­fas).

“There are a lot of stu­dents at univer­sity who should be at tech­ni­cal and vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing col­leges,” he said dur­ing a panel dis­cus­sion at this week’s Dis­cov­ery Lead­er­ship Sum­mit, held in Sand­ton in Jo­han­nes­burg.

Nx­as­ana has spear­headed a new fund­ing model, the Ikusasa Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Pro­gramme, set for re­lease soon.

Ac­cord­ing to Nx­as­ana, among the re­forms pro­posed for Ns­fas is one giv­ing stu­dents less of a grace pe­riod to fin­ish their qual­i­fi­ca­tions out­side of the min­i­mum time.

“Cur­rently, the scheme al­lows them two ad­di­tional years, but the pro­posal is to cut this to one year,” he said.

Loans and grants tar­get­ing the full cost of study, in­stead of help­ing with fees only, are an­other key ele­ment of the new plan.

The new pro­pos­als work on the ba­sis of poor stu­dents re­ceiv­ing a fully sub­sidised ed­u­ca­tion, while those from work­ing class fam­i­lies get par­tially sub­sidised.

“Among the fund­ing op­tions be­ing ex­am­ined are ed­u­ca­tion bonds, which will of­fer in­vestors a re­turn,” he said.

Other rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude com­mu­nity ser­vice for grad­u­ates who have been funded by Ns­fas.

Nx­as­ana stepped down as group CEO of FirstRand last year, but still chairs the FirstRand Foun­da­tion, the bank­ing group’s char­ity.

The foun­da­tion chipped in R7 mil­lion to “sup­port the de­sign phase” of Ikusasa, ac­cord­ing to its an­nual re­port.

But Max Price, vicechan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of Cape Town, said a fund­ing so­lu­tion that was, in essence, debt-based would never be em­braced by the stu­dent move­ment.

“The main­stream of the stu­dent move­ment does not ac­cept the scheme. I be­lieve it is the cor­rect scheme, but it re­mains highly con­tested.

“They are call­ing for tax-funded ed­u­ca­tion,” said Price, who went on to pro­pose the need for a fo­rum where the stu­dents, uni­ver­si­ties and gov­ern­ment could talk about op­tions.

The uni­ver­si­ties them­selves have pro­posed a grad­u­ate tax, which ex­tends the “user pays” prin­ci­ple to all stu­dents who grad­u­ate, ir­re­spec­tive of whether they were funded by Ns­fas or not.

The on­go­ing ju­di­cial fees com­mis­sion was the “wrong in­stru­ment” to de­ter­mine how univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion would be funded, added Price.

He said the com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sions would prob­a­bly only be ef­fec­tive in 2020, whereas an im­me­di­ate road map for univer­sity fund­ing was needed.

“No one is go­ing to wait for that [the out­come of the com­mis­sion],” he said.

COPS ON CAM­PUS ‘MAKE THINGS WORSE’

Tawana Kupe, deputy vicechan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand, said crit­ics needed “per­spec­tive” about the po­lice and se­cu­rity forces on cam­puses.

“There is a dif­fer­ence be­tween the se­cu­rity forces of an un­demo­cratic state and those of a demo­cratic state,” he said.

The pres­ence of large con­tin­gents of riot po­lice and pri­vate se­cu­rity on cam­puses has been blamed for es­ca­lat­ing the sit­u­a­tion, in part be­cause of the in­tim­i­da­tion and ha­rass­ment of stu­dents – ir­re­spec­tive of whether they par­tic­i­pated in protests peace­fully or not, or par­tic­i­pated at all.

Price agreed. “Se­cu­rity does in­flame oth­ers. You have 200 rad­i­cals and the num­ber swells to 2 000 as they re­act to the se­cu­rity.”

The main­stream of the stu­dent move­ment does not ac­cept the scheme. I be­lieve it is the cor­rect scheme, but it re­mains highly con­tested

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