Attending university is a dream for many young people, but for most it remains just that – a dream. The #FeesMustFall movement last year brought to light the fact that the majority of the South African population cannot afford a university education and the plight of the “missing middle” was brought to the fore - students who are deemed too rich to qualify for government support, but too poor to afford tuition fees.
In order to mitigate the negative impact on higher education institutions that the decline in state funding has caused, tuition fees have been continuously and rapidly raised over the last few years. Between 2000-2010 tuition fees for full-time student increased on average 2.5% per year, creating enormous financial pressure on students and their parents. It has also lead to “privatisation” and “commercialisation” of public higher education, shifting the burden of funding from the state to individuals. The increases in tuition fees also created significant barriers for the poor and working class communities to access universities.