More plans for education funding

A protester holds up a placard indicating his opinion on NSFAS during an EFF march in Johannesburg. (EWN, Twitter)
A protester holds up a placard indicating his opinion on NSFAS during an EFF march in Johannesburg. (EWN, Twitter)

The concept of access to higher education still needed to be properly defined, said Sizwe Nxasana, chair of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas).

“There are a lot of students at university who should be at technical and vocational education and training colleges,” he said during a panel discussion at this week’s Discovery Leadership Summit, held in Sandton in Johannesburg.

Nxasana has spearheaded a new funding model, the Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme, set for release soon.

According to Nxasana, among the reforms proposed for Nsfas is one giving students less of a grace period to finish their qualifications outside of the minimum time.

“Currently, the scheme allows them two additional years, but the proposal is to cut this to one year,” he said.

Loans and grants targeting the full cost of study, instead of helping with fees only, are another key element of the new plan.

The new proposals work on the basis of poor students receiving a fully subsidised education, while those from working class families get partially subsidised.

“Among the funding options being examined are education bonds, which will offer investors a return,” he said.

Other recommendations include community service for graduates who have been funded by Nsfas.

Nxasana stepped down as group CEO of FirstRand last year, but still chairs the FirstRand Foundation, the banking group’s charity.

The foundation chipped in R7 million to “support the design phase” of Ikusasa, according to its annual report.

But Max Price, vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, said a funding solution that was, in essence, debt-based would never be embraced by the student movement.

“The mainstream of the student movement does not accept the scheme. I believe it is the correct scheme, but it remains highly contested.

“They are calling for tax-funded education,” said Price, who went on to propose the need for a forum where the students, universities and government could talk about options.

The universities themselves have proposed a graduate tax, which extends the “user pays” principle to all students who graduate, irrespective of whether they were funded by Nsfas or not.

The ongoing judicial fees commission was the “wrong instrument” to determine how university education would be funded, added Price.

He said the commission’s decisions would probably only be effective in 2020, whereas an immediate road map for university funding was needed.

“No one is going to wait for that [the outcome of the commission],” he said.

COPS ON CAMPUS ‘MAKE THINGS WORSE’

Tawana Kupe, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, said critics needed “perspective” about the police and security forces on campuses.

“There is a difference between the security forces of an undemocratic state and those of a democratic state,” he said.

The presence of large contingents of riot police and private security on campuses has been blamed for escalating the situation, in part because of the intimidation and harassment of students – irrespective of whether they participated in protests peacefully or not, or participated at all.

Price agreed.

“Security does inflame others. You have 200 radicals and the number swells to 2 000 as they react to the security.”

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