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Student funding model takes the stage at fees commission.

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Patricia Aruo
March10/ 2017

The student-proposed higher education funding model was presented at the fees commission on Tuesday this week.

THE Fees Commission started its final rounds of public hearings in Pretoria on Tuesday, March 7 with the presentation of the student proposed model.

The presentation at the fees commission of the model, a product of efforts primarily by Wits students and some UJ students, focused partly on providing a detailed summary of the four proposals for possible funding sources it makes.

The first two of these proposals target the corporate sector with the Corporate Infrastructure Fund and a restructuring of the Skills Development Levy which would be gradually implemented and whose funds would be exclusively for higher education funding.

“Universities are at the epicentre of skills development. What we are arguing is that universities should actually take the greater share of the Skills Development Levy rather than going to the SETAs.” says Khaya Sithole, an academic who assisted the students in composing the model.
‘The Education Levy would be able to collect from the entire student body.” says Sithole.

This levy would therefore target not only the students who received government funding and would be a permanent levy unlike the current one, he says.
The government subsidies which have declined to 38% over the past few years would be increased to 50%. “This can be done overtime, possibly over a period of eight years.” says Sithole.

The presentation also focused on a recognition of the different family financial backgrounds and as such, groups students into classes on a family income basis ranging from those earning below R300 000 who would receive full state funding and those earning over R600 000 who would remain fully self-funded.

Dylan Barry, one of the Wits student contributors to the model, notes some reservations about the commission but is nonetheless interested in seeing whether their suggestions will be taken into serious consideration and hopes the presentation of the model was well received. “The real question is if some kind of fee-free system is something we as a society want to pursue, and if so what form would the system take,” he says of his preferred mandate of the commission which was established to explore the feasibility of free higher education.

FEE-FREE: Students propose funding model Photo: Nokuthula Zwane
FEE-FREE: Students propose funding model Photo: Nokuthula Zwane

The current hearings are the last set of public hearings, focusing solely on the feasibility of fees. They are scheduled to end on the 24th of March but have been constructive so far, according to the commission’s spokesperson, Musa Ndwandwe. “We are happy with the process and we applaud the level of commitment from all stakeholders who have been forthcoming with their information and knowledge,” Ndwandwe says. Thereafter, the commission will have about two months in which to consider the evidence presented.

Barry hopes that some recommendations on fee-free education are made along with a timeline for implementation. The final report from the commission is expected to be presented in June.

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Wits Vuvuzela, :  Fees Commission wraps up first round in Gauteng. August 14, 2016.

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Patricia Aruo