Rhodes set for 8% fees in­crease

Grocott's Mail - - ECONOMIX - By LOY­ISO DYONGMAN

Rhodes Univer­sity says it needs an in­come in­crease of at least eight per­cent to off­set the im­pact of in­fla­tion and pro­vide qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion for their stu­dents.

Last year ended on a tense and dif­fi­cult note, as stu­dents from uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try protested af­ter Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Blade Nz­i­mande’s Septem­ber an­nounce­ment that South African uni­ver­si­ties could in­crease fees for 2017 by up to eight per­cent.

At the time, Nz­i­mande said they had looked at the chal­lenges at hand from all sides and had con­cluded that the best ap­proach would be to al­low uni­ver­si­ties in­di­vid­u­ally to de­ter­mine the level of in­crease that their in­sti­tu­tions would re­quire.

Stu­dents qualifying for fi­nan­cial aid in terms of the Na­tional Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme, as well as stu­dents from homes where the in­come is less than R600 000 a year will, for the sec­ond suc­ces­sive year, see no in­crease.

How­ever, any stu­dent not in those cat­e­gories could pay up to eight per­cent more in fees than in 2016.

Un­rest at uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try im­me­di­ately fol­lowed, as stu­dents em­barked on the #FeesMustFall protests in higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions.

Some stu­dents were ar­rested; oth­ers didn’t write their fi­nal ex­ams.

Stu­dents were given the op- tion to write their ex­ams in Novem­ber, or this month.

This week, Rhodes Univer­sity com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Veliswa Mhlope said in terms of lo­gis­tics, the univer­sity was ready for the start of the new year.

How­ever, she main­tained that the univer­sity needs the eight per­cent off­set.

“Our Univer­sity is acutely aware of the chal­lenges faced by the young peo­ple of our coun­try re­gard­ing ac­cess to and af­ford­abil­ity of higher ed­u­ca­tion.

“The Univer­sity needs an in­come in­crease of at least 8% to off­set the im­pact of in­fla­tion and pro­vide qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion for our stu­dents,” Mhlophe said.

“The ma­jor­ity of our stu- dents will ex­pe­ri­ence a zero fee in­crease, as the South African tax­pay­ers will carry the fee ad­just­ment of 8%,” said Mhlope.

She added that the Univer­sity lead­er­ship was work­ing to­gether with other higher ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers and em­i­nent per­sons in so­ci­ety to find so­lu­tions to the chal­lenges faced by public higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions.

Mhlope said the Univer­sity lead­er­ship was keen to en­gage stu­dents and staff on ways of en­sur­ing that no aca­dem­i­cally de­serv­ing stu­dent is de­nied an op­por­tu­nity to ac­quire higher ed­u­ca­tion sim­ply be­cause they were born into poor fam­i­lies.

She said the univer­sity was hop­ing for the best 2017, but was ready for any even­tu­al­ity.

Mhlope said they were still busy with as­sess­ing last year's dam­age to univer­sity prop­erty dur­ing the #FeesMustFall protests. She said when they have fi­nalised this as­sess­ment they will make a state­ment.

Stu­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil Pres­i­dent for 2017 Rolih­lahla Mabaso said they would dis­cuss a way for­ward next week when the stu­dents are back.

He said at the mo­ment they were still sort­ing out reg­is­tra­tion is­sues and mat­ters of some stu­dents whose re­sults were with­held by the univer­sity.

“We are only go­ing into the of­fice next week and that is when we will start plan­ning con­crete ways for­ward.

The univer­sity is still con- tin­u­ing with the fee in­crease and they say stu­dents should fill out the miss­ing-mid­dle forms.”

The so-called miss­ing mid­dle refers to stu­dents whose fam­i­lies are too well off to qual­ify for Na­tional Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme fund­ing, but not well enough off to af­ford univer­sity fees.

“We are not say­ing we fully agree with this, but ob­vi­ously it’s what it’s be­ing done and we are try­ing to get all stu­dents to sign this miss­ing-mid­dle form.

“Once we are back on cam­pus, we can dis­cuss what our way for­ward is,” said Mabaso.

Find­ings of a na­tional Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into the Fea­si­bil­ity of Free Higher Ed­u­ca­tion are ex­pected to be avail­able in mid-2017.

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