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Free higher education for all poor students within five years‚ says Zuma

President Jacob Zuma
President Jacob Zuma

Free higher education for poor and working class students will be introduced for first-year students in 2018 and fully phased in over five years‚ President Jacob Zuma announced on Saturday.

Students from households with a combined annual income of R350‚000 or less will have their TVET college or university studies fully subsidised‚ he said.

“Having amended the definition of poor and working class students‚ government will now introduce fully subsidised free higher education and training for poor and working class South African undergraduate students‚ starting in 2018 with students in their first year of study at our public universities‚” said a statement from Zuma.

“Students categorised as poor and working class‚ under the new definition‚ will be funded and supported through government grants not loans.

“For TVET colleges‚ full cost of study will include tuition fee‚ prescribed study material‚ meals‚ accommodation‚ and/or transport.”

The Heher Commission into the higher education and training said free tertiary education was unaffordable. It recommended that all students‚ regardess of their family’s income‚ should have their studies funded through “income-contingency loans” from commercial banks.

These loans would be guaranteed by the government.

Zuma also said on Saturday the government subsidy to universities would increase from 0.68% of GDP to 1% over the next five years‚ as recommended by the Heher Commission.

This would address the overall gross underfunding of higher education and would “kick-start a skills revolution towards and in pursuit of the radical socio-economic transformation programme as outlined during the 2017 State of the Nation Address”.

As a result of the increased subsidy‚ there would be “no tuition fee increment for students from households earning up to R600‚000 a year during the 2018 academic year”.

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