Rhodes set for 8% fees increase
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.