Short-term debt relief for poor students

2015-12-16 09:20

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Pietermaritzburg - The Presidential Task Team set up to investigate solutions to the #feesmustfall movement has recommended making R2,3 billion available to universities and higher education institutions.

The task team’s report was released on Tuesday evening by the Presidency. It made several recommendations, including a radical shift in how to fund higher education tuition and a call for free higher education for the poor and working class.

The task team, set up in October, was required to find solutions to the 0% increase and the financial shortfall of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding for students registered in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 academic years.

The task team made “four key recommendations”, while it added that “all students should disavow anarchy and the destruction of university and private property”.

The 0% increase was a victory for the thousands of university students across the country who marched on government buildings, notably Parliament and the Union Buildings.

However, the civil action under the social media hashtag #feesmustfall was marred with violence, arrests and damage to the tune of tens of millions of rands.

“A process must be put in place immediately to develop a new financing model, which includes the private banking sector and other business interests, to incorporate options for funding the ‘missing middle’ that provides loans at favourable interest rates without having to provide surety. This must be developed during 2016 with the view to testing it in the 2017 academic year for full implementation in 2018,” said the statement.

Among the findings which included the R2,3 billion injection to be made to higher education, it said upfront fee and registration payments should be implemented “across the system for those who can afford to pay”, while students who meet the NSFAS means test “should not be required to pay upfront payments”.

The statement said the current NSFAS shortfall has been quantified at R4,582 billion and that R2,543 billion must be made available from the fiscus, in the form of loans to “provide short-term debt relief to 71 753 students who were funded inadequately or were unable to access financial aid over the 2013 to 2015 academic years”.

It said a further R2,039 billion should be made available in the 2016/17 financial year to “ensure that currently unfunded continuing students receive NSFAS support in the 2016 academic year”.

However, the report said NSFAS should “improve its administrative systems” and make sure students understand the scheme’s rules.

President Jacob Zuma said in the statement he will soon announce the members of the commission that will look at issues including the introduction of free higher education for poor pupils.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  student loan  |  debt

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