Tuition fees rise at more than double inflation rate

2015-02-09 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Tuition fees at universities in the Western Cape have increased on ­average by 50% over the past five years, compared to the average overall inflation rate of only 23% since 2011.

Figures supplied by three Western Cape universities, the University of Cape Town (UCT), the University of Stellenbosch (US) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC), revealed this increase.

Calls to standardise tuition fees at ­universities followed the concern over high class which expressed by President Jacob Zuma last month.

George Kershoff, deputy director at ­Bureau for Economic Research (BER) at US. said when demand exceeds supply, the price will increase.

Kershoff said there was a large demand for tertiary education in South Africa which the supply could not meet and people would do almost anything for a good tertiary ­education. He said teaching costs had gone up the fastest, but one would have to ­investigate what factors had supported the rapid increase in fees.

Where one year of tuition fees for a medical student at UCT cost R42 500 five years ago, medical students will this year pay R64 500.

Speaking at the ANC celebrations in Cape Town last month, Zuma said increased tuition fees discriminated against poor students and had become another stumbling block that excluded indigent and defenceless South African children.

He said government appreciated the ­autonomy of universities, but warned the ­institutions not to discriminate against ­students using race or tuition fees.

Spokesperson for the Department of Higher Education Khanye Nkwanyane said the department is currently considering a legal framework to standardise university tuition and limit annual increases.

Kershoff said such a legal framework is definitely worth investigating. He said the state already monitors other services like electricity and medical costs, and if could be worthwhile to also regulate tuition fees at universities.

Christie Viljoen, senior economist at NCK ­Independent Economists, however said an increase of more than double the inflation rate in tuition fees over the past five years is not ­“unrealistic”.

She said tertiary education was a service and fees for other services like those of ­doctors or attorneys had increased accordingly. But when the cost of these services did increase by considerably more than the rate of inflation, it meant a wide gap opened up between those who could afford tuition fees and those who were too poor.

“That is why so many colleges had opened over the past few years — because tuition fees are simply unaffordable for most people. For first generation students from ­families with an economic disadvantage, it will be especially difficult to afford tertiary ­education,” Viljoen said.

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