University tuition fees for 2018 will be increased by eight percent in line with inflation.
In a statement on Thursday, Universities SA (USAf) said the issue of free tertiary education has yet to be settled, as the country waits for an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Higher education to process the report by the Fees Commission.
President Jacob Zuma released the report last month but said he would only make a pronouncement on it once the IMC has considered it.
The commission found free higher education is not feasible, but it recommended TVET colleges be fee-free and that all university students be funded through a cost-sharing model of government guaranteed income-contingency loans sourced from commercial banks.
USAf said “universities cannot wait perpetually for the outcomes of that process. The 2018 academic year is literally upon us and they face the challenge of operating as institutions on the 1st of January.”
In the meantime, universities say they must draw up realistic budgets that would allow the institutions to function “at a decent level.”
The body said it has held discussions with the Minister of Higher Education and Training Hlengiwe Mkhize “about the need for the state, in the absence of any clarity on its approach on the fees issue in the medium- to long-term, to put in place an effective subsidy dispensation for an inflationary income adjustment for two groups of students.”
This includes students who qualify for NSFAS loans, as well as the so-called “missing middle” i.e. when the total annual family income of a student is above the NSFAS threshold of R122,000 and below R600,000.
USAf explained that higher education price index (HEPI) runs at about 1.7 percent above the Consumer Price Index, which is why it is at eight percent.
“It must be emphasised that this provides for nothing more than an inflation-adjusted budget. It will allow the universities to hold their operations at current levels without having, at this stage, to resort to drastic cuts and retrenchments.”