No fees to cost fiscus R250bn over three years

Cape Town – South Africa’s higher education institutions received an income of over R63bn from operating activities in the financial year ended December 31 2015, Statistician General Pali Lehohla announced on Tuesday.

During a media briefing hosted at Parliament, Lehohla presented a report on the financial statistics of universities. Universities’ income was R4.9bn higher than in the previous financial year. “The increase in income was largely due to increases in 'other receipts' - including tuition fees - and grants received from the Department of Higher Education,” Lehohla said.

Income

The largest contributor to the total cash income was attributed to “other receipts”, which totalled R36.2bn, followed by grants, amounting to R26.9bn.

South Africa’s universities are currently beset with violent demonstrations featuring a strong security presence, as students protest against fee increases and lobby for free higher education at all tertiary education institutions.

Universities across the country are holding emergency meetings, in a desperate bid to keep the academic year going and allow students to write exams.

Expenditure

Total cash payments for operating activities at universities increased by R4.5bn – from R49.7bn in 2014 to R54.1bn in 2015. “The largest contributor to payments was employee compensation,” Lehohla said, which amounted to R31.4bn. This represents a 13.9% increase from the previous year.

Fee-free universities?

In a presentation to MPs last week, the Parliamentary Budget Office estimated that fee-free education at universities would cost the fiscus around R250bn over a three-year period.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is expected to elaborate on how government intends to subsidise poor students from households with an income of less than R600 000 when he delivers his mini budget on Wednesday. 

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