Tension over varsity fees

MAKING A STAND: Every year sees students demonstrating over increased fee hikes at institutions of higher learning. Pic. Halden Krog. 05/10/2007. © The Times
p
A frightened student sits cluching her brief case while students protesting over an increase in school fees disrupt a lecture at Wits University, Friday 05 October 2007.
PICTURE: HALDEN KROG
MAKING A STAND: Every year sees students demonstrating over increased fee hikes at institutions of higher learning. Pic. Halden Krog. 05/10/2007. © The Times p A frightened student sits cluching her brief case while students protesting over an increase in school fees disrupt a lecture at Wits University, Friday 05 October 2007. PICTURE: HALDEN KROG

EVERY new academic year higher education students go on strike because of fee hikes. Students complain that universities do not consult them when deciding to increase fees.

EVERY new academic year higher education students go on strike because of fee hikes. Students complain that universities do not consult them when deciding to increase fees.

Higher Education of South Africa's (Hesa) Cleo Bhengu said yesterday: "At the end of last year, the minister of higher education wrote a letter to all institutions asking about the consultation process. Most institutions have consulted student bodies.

"Most of the increase in fees is done by council - and students representatives are on that platforms. They agree on percentages but the real money is totally different."

But South African Student Council president Mbulelo Madlana said: "The student representative council only has two members in a university council made up of about 50 members. Most of the time we oppose fee hikes but we are outnumbered."

Higher education institutions need money to ensure that students achieve the required quality education.

Last week Hesa announced that the 23 higher education institutions in the country are owed about R2,8billion in unpaid fees.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfsas) is owed about R9billion.

"It is important to note that a substantial amount of this total is money that is not yet due for payment because the student is still busy studying or the person has not started working and earning the minimum amount required before he is expected to begin repaying the loan," Nsfsas spokesperson Bonny Feldman said

Last year 153000 students were on the scheme.

The Nsfsas interest rate is linked to the repo rate - currently at 7percent - as determined from time to time by the South African Reserve Bank.

The Nsfsas interest rate is pegged at 80percent of the repo rate, and will fluctuate in line with changes to the repo rate. Interest is calculated on the capital of the loan per fiscal year.

Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande last year proposed the formation of a student bank.

His spokesperson Ranjeni Munusamy said Nzimande was only scheduled to receive the report of the Nsfsas's review committee at the end of this month.

"That is when he will know the committee's recommendations on the formation of the bank," Munusamy said.

Madlana said: "We want a scheme that is better than Nsfsas but the bank is not a solution.

"The government cannot run a bank, so the logical thing is that it would be run privately and we don't want that.

"They should also ensure that the scheme is interest free.

"Only a few students go straight to work after school. By the time they are able to pay Nsfsas they are already recorded by the credit bureau."

X