Stellenbosch University students benefit from R8.1m debt relief thanks to donations

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Stellenbosch University.
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A total of 82 postgraduate and 84 undergraduate students at Stellenbosch University (SU) are set to take on their next academic journey, or enter the world of work, debt-free thanks to donations amounting to R8.1 million received by the university.

Debt is increasingly becoming the biggest obstacle for many students in higher education, with some forced to abandon their studies because they are unable to pay student fees, according to Prof. Stan du Plessis, chief operating officer of SU.

"At Stellenbosch University, the outstanding debt for the graduating class of 2021 stands at R16.3 million — affecting 433 students in total. These figures exclude the debt of government-funded students which currently stands at R13 million for 289 NSFAS students and R11 million for 106 Funza Lushaka students," says Du Plessis.

"One of the biggest risks for universities is unpaid student fees, and this continued to rise in 2021. In 2011, student debt in the sector stood at R3.3 billion and has since risen to R16.250 billion in 2020. On average, students carrying debt upon graduation owe more than R30 000 each."

Despite SU committing a substantial portion of its income – generated through state subsidies and student fees – to student bursaries each year, the institution is experiencing increased financial strain as subsidy and fee income has come under pressure. It cannot simply write off debt without the required reserves.

Funds are being raised for a number of initiatives under the umbrella of Bridge the Gap, among them #GradMe, #Action4Inclusion, #Zim4Zim and Caught in the Middle — which specifically look at alleviating student debt.

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