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Govt allocates R57 billion to fund fee-free higher education

Fee-free higher education was announced by former President Jacob Zuma last year, in response to the Heher Commission of Inquiry.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba delivering the Budget speech in Parliament on 21 February 2018. Picture: Twitter/@GovernmentZA

CAPE TOWN - Government has allocated R57 billion in the medium term to fund free fees for first-year tertiary students.

It’s the largest reallocation of resources towards government’s spending priorities.

Fee-free higher education was announced by former President Jacob Zuma last year, in response to the Heher Commission of Inquiry.

Making tertiary education fees for lower-income students free means higher education is now government’s fastest-growing spending category with an annual average growth of 13.7%.

The expense will partly be funded by revenue raised from an increase in value-added tax.

All first-year students with a family income of below R350,000 per year will be funded for the full cost of study at universities and TVET colleges.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba says this will be rolled out in subsequent years until all years of study are covered.

“This is an important step forward in breaking the cycle of poverty and confronting youth unemployment, as labour statistics show that unemployment is lowest for tertiary graduates.”

Returning students who receive loans from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme will as from this year, have those loans converted into a bursary.

At the same time, Gigaba outlined his expenditure plan.

“Consolidated spending will increase from R1.67 trillion in 2018/19 to R1.94 trillion. Representing a nominal average growth of 7.6% or 2.1% in real terms.”

He says higher education will be given attention.

“The largest reallocation of resources towards government priorities was on higher education and training, amounting to additional funding of R57 billion over the medium term.”

WATCH LIVE: Gigaba delivers Budget speech

Additional reporting by Ray White.

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