Plight of overburdened student moves varsity to act

Stellenbosch University issues 'democracy dividend' challenge

The institution said it was intensifying its efforts to raise R1.1m to ensure that no student was denied access based on their financial struggles.
The institution said it was intensifying its efforts to raise R1.1m to ensure that no student was denied access based on their financial struggles.
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Stellenbosch University (SU) has announced efforts to assist students struggling with their fees to honour their debts. 

The institution said it was intensifying its efforts to raise R1.1m to ensure that no student was denied access based on their financial struggles.

Prof Wim de Villiers, SU’s rector and vice-chancellor, said the institution was experiencing increased financial strain as state subsidies for universities have progressively declined.

“Significant amounts of outstanding student debt further exacerbate our concerns as we cannot write off the money owed to the university because it is crucial to sustaining our operations. SU commits a substantial portion of its income generated through state subsidies and student fees to student bursaries each year.

“The contributions to #Action4Inclusion firstly help talented students overcome financial burdens and give them the opportunity to pursue professional careers without the burden of student debt, and secondly ensure SU’s sustainability as an institution,” he said.

The #Action4Inclusion initiative that was launched last year was conceptualised by SU’s student representative council, Prof Thuli Madonsela and  SU’s law trust chair in social justice, Prof Sonia Human.

Madonsela said the plight of students who were overburdened by university fees debt was of great concern.

“Many students from under-resourced backgrounds struggle to pay their university fees and are often at risk of dropping out. I firmly believe that a lack of funding should not inhibit success and access to education should not be dependent on wealth. Together we can help students to earn their degrees without the burden of debt. I therefore challenge all SU alumni, members of the public, companies and captains of industry to give a ‘democracy dividend’ to young people striving to get a university qualification,” she said.

Feenix was launched in June 2017 as a response to the #FeesMustFall movement that spread across campuses in the country in 2015 and 2016.

Since its launch in 2017, more than R80m has been raised on the platform towards eradicating the student debt of more than 2,131 university students. Feenix connects students who owe university fees with funder communities to assist them to fundraise for their student debt via an online crowdfunding platform. 

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