How can we solve fees cri­sis?

CityPress - - News - MSINDISI FENGU msindisi.fengu@city­press.co.za

The chair of the Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing, Judge Jonathan He­her, faces a mammoth task as he needs to con­sol­i­date in­for­ma­tion into a re­port for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma within the next two months.

The com­mis­sion’s work, which in­cludes de­ter­min­ing the fea­si­bil­ity of fee-free ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion, draws to an end next month.

Com­mis­sion spokesper­son Musa Nd­wandwe said much time would be spent on com­pil­ing the re­port, which must be handed to Zuma by June at the lat­est.

“We cur­rently do not have a date for the end of the pub­lic hear­ings. How­ever, it is safe to spec­u­late that, by the first week of April, we will be done. This gives com­mis­sion­ers enough time to go through all the ev­i­dence as they pre­pare the fi­nal re­port,” he said.

The last key sub­mis­sions made this week were that of ANC Youth League (ANCYL) sec­re­tary-gen­eral Njab­ulo Nzuza, and Science and Tech­nol­ogy Min­is­ter Naledi Pan­dor, who pre­sented on be­half of the ANC’s sub­com­mit­tees on health, ed­u­ca­tion, science and tech­nol­ogy.

Nzuza was grilled on the ANCYL’s sub­mis­sion for the na­tion­al­i­sa­tion of uni­ver­si­ties, while Pan­dor was ques­tioned about the state’s lim­i­ta­tions to de­liver on the ANC’s prom­ises for free ed­u­ca­tion.

He­her asked Pan­dor if gov­ern­ment would con­sider a “se­duc­tive” pro­posal to con­sider us­ing loans from banks to fund poor stu­dents, for which the state would stand as guar­an­tor.

Pan­dor was cau­tious in her re­ply, say­ing re­search would first have to be con­ducted into the mat­ter.

Here are some of the pro­pos­als the com­mis­sion heard:

ANCYL

Na­tion­alise uni­ver­si­ties. Sup­ply free ed­u­ca­tion only to the poor – this would be based on in­come and de­pen­dency lev­els, keep­ing in mind that some fam­i­lies pay “black tax”. Do away with univer­sity au­ton­omy and the Na­tional Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) be­cause the sys­tem is be­ing abused.

Use the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice to as­sess el­i­gi­bil­ity for fund­ing – ap­pli­ca­tions would work the same way as fil­ing a tax re­turn. Tax cor­po­rates and in­vest in univer­sity in­fras­truc­ture.

ANC

NSFAS is vi­able. In­crease NSFAS sup­port for poor stu­dents in the so-called miss­ing mid­dle. Re­view cur­rent state grant fund­ing to uni­ver­si­ties.

De­velop frame­works to reg­u­late univer­sity fee in­creases that will not in­fringe on univer­sity au­ton­omy.

Ring-fence fund­ing for science and engi­neer­ing stu­dents, as well as for ar­ti­sans, to at­tract and re­tain young peo­ple.

DA

Fund NSFAS bet­ter and ex­pand it to in­clude ap­pli­cants from house­holds with an an­nual in­come of R500 000. In­tro­duce a tiered sys­tem of loans or grants for the miss­ing mid­dle who can af­ford to pay a por­tion of their fees.

Ex­plore a va­ri­ety of al­ter­na­tive fund­ing sources, in­clud­ing part­ner­ships with pri­vate and bank­ing sec­tors, to in­crease ac­cess to loans. Re­duce the num­ber of pres­tige items in the na­tional bud­get and re­di­rect funds to­wards univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion. De­velop a more ef­fi­cient debt col­lec­tion sys­tem within NSFAS.

Equal Ed­u­ca­tion move­ment

In­crease fund­ing by at least an ag­gre­gate amount equal to the ra­tio achieved in Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment coun­tries. Poor stu­dents need to be pri­ori­tised.

Ex­am­ine the per­sonal tax struc­ture and levy the top 10% of in­come earn­ers. This in­come, to­gether with that of high-net­worth in­di­vid­u­als, who have so far evaded tax­a­tion, could in­crease avail­able pub­lic rev­enue to fund higher ed­u­ca­tion.

Fed­er­a­tion of Unions of SA

Free ed­u­ca­tion for all is not vi­able, but it should be more af­ford­able. Re-pri­ori­tise spend­ing and de­velop a bet­ter fund­ing model for higher ed­u­ca­tion, bal­anc­ing in­sti­tu­tional and stu­dent needs. Trans­fer sub­stan­tive bud­get items from uni­ver­si­ties, such as salaries, to the state, but staffing lev­els and qual­ity should not be jeop­ar­dised.

Uni­ver­si­ties SA

Fee-free higher ed­u­ca­tion is not sup­ported un­less it is ab­so­lutely clear how a full fund­ing model is con­sti­tuted. Lev­els of pub­lic in­vest­ment in higher ed­u­ca­tion must be in­ter­na­tion­ally bench­marked and matched to the value of the pub­lic good.

If the state de­clares fee-free higher ed­u­ca­tion for all with­out mak­ing up for uni­ver­si­ties’ en­su­ing losses, most will be­come bankrupt within months.

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