Ayanda Mgede and Laura Pisanello

The Fees Commission wrapped up its last day of submissions today in Vanderbijlpark, Vaal Triangle, offering three submissions from students and various stakeholders involved in higher education funding.

The National Treasury made the first submissions, focusing on the budget for higher education in the 2016 fiscal policy.

“You either have to decrease spending in another sector or you need to increase revenue,” said Michael Sachs, who was presenting on the Treasury’s behalf.   Sachs stated that the only way to increase revenue would be to increase taxes. He also added that this would affect employment because the government would have to regulate and control the number of public servants it hires. Although higher education was allocated R4.8 billion in this year’s budget, it will not be enough for free education. The government is going to need an estimate of R16.8 billion for the next three years in order to make up for this year’s 0% fee increament. Sachs warned, however, that the only way to increase education funding, would be to take from another sector and the decision would not be easy.

“There is no cut that you can conceive, that won’t have a counter-argument,” he said.

Nikhiel Deeplal, former Chairperson of Student for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ), said they need for government to cater for the different students who come from difficult economic backgrounds . SLSJ have proposed a sliding-scale model, whereby the rich students will still pay for what they can afford to and their tuition fees will subsidise those who can’t afford.  The group made it clear in their submissions that funding did not only include fees but many students needed money for food, books and accommodation.

Lunga Siyo who presented on behalf of SLSJ said that “I think this was a good start, we got an opportunity to get a lot of insights; the thinking of the commission, where they want to go and what we need to expand on for further submissions.”

The next set of meetings will take place on Monday August 22nd , in Nelspruit. The Commission chairperson, Judge JA Hehrer was disappointed in the fact that there weren’t as many presented proposals as they had hoped.