Zuma's 'grants, not loans' for tertiary education flies in the face of Heher Commission

2017-12-16 15:18
President Jacob Zuma. (Thuli Dlamini, Gallo Images, The Times, file)

President Jacob Zuma. (Thuli Dlamini, Gallo Images, The Times, file)

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ANALYSIS: Zuma's free education

2017-12-16 12:07

President Jacob Zuma has announced that government will subsidise free higher education for poor and working class students. Our analysts weigh in.WATCH

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's announcement of fee-free higher education and training for university students from 2018, in the form of grants not loans, flies in the face of recommendations made by the Heher Commission.

The commission found that there was currently no capacity for the government to provide free tertiary education to all students in the country.

"There is insufficient financial capacity in the state to provide totally free higher education and training to all who are unable to finance their own education, let alone to all students, whether in need or not," the executive summary of the commission’s report said.

Despite this, Zuma dropped a bombshell with the release of a statement at the beginning of the ANC’s 54th conference in Nasrec, stating that government will subsidise free higher education for poor and working-class students.

Read more: ANALYSIS: Zuma's sinister reasons for announcing free higher education

Zuma announced that the threshold to qualify as a poor or working-class student would be raised to a maximum combined family income of R350 000 per annum, an increase from the original R122 000 family income per annum cap.

In the Heher Commission report, it was recommended that all students studying at both public and private universities, be funded through a cost-sharing model of a government guaranteed income-contingent loan, sourced from commercial banks.

This loan would then have to be paid back, but only once the student had graduated and passed a certain income threshold.

However, Zuma made it clear that students who qualified would receive grants, not loans, and that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) would manage the grants.

The Heher Commission had recommended that NFSAS be removed from their role in funding university students and focus on the provision of support to Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) students.

Zuma said: "NSFAS packages already allocated to existing NSFAS students in their further years of study will be converted from loans to 100% grants effective immediately." 

Areas where Zuma implemented the Heher Commission’s suggestions include:

  • Funding of the Post Schooling Education and Training Sector be increased to at least 1% of GDP, with particular attention to the Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges.
  • That government adopt an affordable plan to develop more student accommodation and that Historically Disadvantaged Institutions be prioritised.
  • That government investigate the viability of “online and blended learning” as an alternative in addressing the funding and capacity challenges.
  • All students at TVET institutions would receive fully subsidised free education in the form of grants that cover their full cost of study.

Read the full Heher Commission Report.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  education  |  university fees

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