By Luca Kotton and Roxanne Joseph
A proposed 10% hike in tuition fees next year will have an adverse effect on Wits University students, particularly those from poor and working class families, according to an economist.
Michael Keenan, an ABSA Bank economist, said the proposed increase from January 2015 will be well above next year’s average wage increase, expected to be about 8%.
He said the increase means that self-funded students whose parents will not receive a large enough salary increase will most likely be unable to afford their tuition fees.
“Inflation hurts the poor man more than the wealthy man,” he said.
Keenan said the increase may not be felt by higher income groups as individual net savings and wage increases will ensure that students from wealthier families are not affected by the hike.
Many Witsies said they would struggle to pay higher fees.
“Fees at the moment are quite hard to meet, I still haven’t paid mine,” said Quaanitah Manique, a first year chemical engineering student.
She also added there are other expenses like transport that are extra costs in addition to the increased fees.
“There are other things, like if you have to come with the bus, there’s fees to be paid, now you have to pay extra fees for varsity,” Manique said.
When asked how it will affect their day-to-day lives, first year dental hygiene student Irene Sekiti said she will not be able “make a life outside of this degree”.
“I won’t have money to go out with my friends. It’s not actually a good thing to increase our fees, they are already high, what’s the point of increasing them?”
Deputy Vice-chancellor of Finance Prof Tawana Kupe attributed the fee increase to a combination of three things: inflation, the cost of importing university resources and the lack of government subsidies.
“Government subsidies are not increasing by inflation,” he said. “The average [increase] we expect this year is 3.4%, which is way below inflation. So you’ve got to take care of that funding gap in government subsidies.”
Kupe expected that students will react with concern over fee increases but described them as “understanding” when consulted by university management earlier this year. He added that he was not personally happy over the fee increase.
“I’m not jumping for joy, I would love the day where we can increase fees by only 5%, but that is not the reality,” he said.
Last week the SRC announced that the upfront fee will remain the same as this year, but did not address the overall increase in tuition fees.
The increase, like the upfront fees freeze still needs to be approved by the university Council, during a meeting on October 4, according to university Registrar Carol Crosley.