Government has set aside an additional R6.912 billion to support university education.
Announcing the additional funding, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said this was a strong indication that government had listened to the concerns raised by university students last year during their march against university fee increases.
“As an immediate measure, we have resolved the zero percent fee increment for 2016 with universities, which amounted to R2.33 billion… University students who meet the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) means test will not be required to pay upfront payments when registering this year,” said the Minister.
The R6.912 billion additional funding includes the R2.33 billion for resolving the zero percent fee increment; R2.543 billion is for NSFAS to provide loans to assist 71 753 identified students, who were either partially funded or not funded at all in the past three academic years.
Minister Nzimande said students who have performed well and come from disadvantaged families will receive financial help from government.
The NSFAS has been allocated over R700 million for full bursaries for scarce and critical skills for the current year from the National Skills Fund (NSF).
“This funding is made available through the financial aid offices at universities, and students wishing to make use of these bursaries are advised to enroll for critical skills study programmes, which include science, commerce, health sciences, engineering and many others,” said Minister Nzimande.
The Minister said NSFAS has also earmarked R72.9 million in the 2016 academic year to provide financial aid to disabled students in universities.
“The department is committed to expanding access and success in our institutions for students who have special needs,” said the Minister.
At technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, government pays 80 per cent of the programme cost of the student’s choice, with an additional allocation being made dependent on the type and severity of the disability.
“Government will assist students who display academic ability but come from poor and disadvantaged families through NSFAS at all 26 public universities and 50 public TVET colleges throughout the country.
“NSFAS will be funding 205 000 first-time entering and continuing eligible students at universities and 200 000 students at TVET colleges in 2016 by providing student loans and bursaries totaling R10 million,” said Minister Nzimande.