Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) welcomes Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement today, which essentially gives universities direction in dealing with the university fee issue going forward.
The University has been in support of calls for free education for poor and academically deserving students, as was outlined in its submission to the presidential Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training (the Fees Commission) earlier this month.
In its submission to the Fees Commission, NMMU made recommendations that included calls for financial support for the “missing middle” and for student fees to remain a crucial source of income for universities.
NMMU acting Vice-Chancellor Dr Sibongile Muthwa welcomed the minister’s announcement and the provision made for the “missing middle” – students whose family earnings are above the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) criteria but cannot afford tuition fees.
“We welcome the announcement as it moves us forward in that it gives more clarity as to what the University can and should do to take forward plans for 2017 and 18,” she said.
“We welcome the new inclusion of the missing middle in the revised determination announced by the Minister. As it is now known, NMMU supports free education for the poor.”
This follows Minister Nzimande’s announcement that based on recommendations made by the Council for Higher Education (CHE), after consultation with university vice-chancellors and Council chairpersons, various student organisation, unions, government and other groups, the department rested the decision to increase fees in 2017 with individual universities – capping the increment at 8%.
The recommendations also spell out government’s commitment to sourcing funding to support students whose household income goes up to R600 000 a year, which include poor students and those referred to as the “missing middle”.
“This will in effect mean that all NSFAS qualifying students, as well as the so-called ‘missing middle’ – that is, students whose families earn above the NSFAS threshold but who are unable to support their children to access higher education, will experience no fee increase in 2017. Government will pay for the fee adjustment,” Nzimande said.
The national #FeesMustFall movement last year highlighted various weighty issues, forcing universities and government to relook at higher education funding.
NMMU notes the government’s recognition of the financial strain that universities are under as a result of last year’s moratorium on fee adjustments. It is further encouraged by government’s stance towards improving access to post-school education and that this “immediate and pressing” task should not eat away at the financial stability of the sector.
The University also notes the government’s commitment to mobilise public and private sector financial support to assist the “missing middle” through affordable financial aid options and the establishment of a Ministerial Task Team to develop a funding support model for poor and “missing middle” students that will be tested in 2017.
NMMU has been proactive in dealing with issues raised by the movement, offering debt and down payment relief in 2016.
The University continues to engage with all stakeholders in seeking ways of increasing students’ access to education in an economically viable manner.
Tel: +27 (0) 41 504 1111
Fax: +27 (0) 41 504 2574 / 2731
PO Box 77000, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa
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