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#Fees2017: Govt commits to funding poor, missing middle

Blade Nzimande says govt’s committed to supporting children of households earning less than R600k a year.

FILE: Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Government has committed to covering the difference to ensure poor and working class students continue to pay fees at 2015 rates.

Minister Blade Nzimande has given the assurance, following months of negotiations with university management and student leadership.

The higher education department estimates that Treasury will have to find about R2.6 billion to help fund financially needy students who are unable to afford a 2017 fee hike.

Nzimande announced in Pretoria today that the department has recommended that universities increase their fees by no more than eight percent.

He says government is committed to finding the resources to support children of households that earn less than R600,000 a year.

This subsidy means these students will continue to pay 2015 rates.

"This will, in effect, mean that all National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) qualifying students as well as the so-called missing middle - that is students whose families earn above the NSFAS threshold but are unable to support their children to access higher education - will experience a no fee increase in 2017."

The cost of this support has not yet been determined.

The department's Gwebs Qonde says they are still trying to work out the exact cost to cover the shortfall for students exempt from the 2017 fee increment.

"There are engagements with the Treasury into determining exactly how much this will be dipping into the public purse. Some indications, though not conclusive, suggest around R2.5 or R2.6 billion."

Minister Nzimande says it's unreasonable to demand free higher education.

"It is incorrect, in a country like South Africa, to pay for parents who can afford as well as for the rich."