Treasury says no money to fund zero percent fee increase

By Ayanda Mgede and Laura Pisanello

The National Treasury has said that they have not budgeted for a zero percent fee increase for 2017, causing speculation that another series of #FeesMustFall protests could be possible.

The statement was made on Friday at the Fees Commission and coincided with a report by the Council of Higher Education (CHE) stating that another 0% increase in 2017 would not be possible as university fee increases should at least be on par with inflation. They recommended an increase of 6.3% for both tuition and registration fees. The CHE also cautioned that without an increase in fees, universities would be in a worse financial position.

The CHE also included in the report its recommendation to increase the state subsidy to universities by R5.7 billion in 2017/18 therefore allowing universities to recover some of their shortfall caused by the 0% increase in 2016. The CHE did, however, caution that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) would still have a shortfall of R300 million.

The CHE proposed a blanket increase for all universities that would essentially ensure that students see no fee increase between 2016 and 2017, possibly with the exemption of some residence fees.

But the National Treasury said on Friday that when the announcement for a 0% increase was made the budget had already been planned for the next few years, making it very difficult for the Treasury to reallocate funds to higher education. Michael Sachs, who presented on behalf of the National Treasury, said that they had budgeted on fee increases for the following years.

At a town hall meeting last week, Wits Vice Chancellor Adam Habib said that that Wits would need an 8% increase for 2017, if the university did not receive an increased subsidy from the government.

Mzwanele Ntshwanti, the projects, media and campaigns officer for the Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) and member of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) told Wits Vuvuzela that they opposed any fee increase.

“We still don’t want any increment, SAUS (South African Union of Students) doesn’t want any increment, SRC doesn’t want any increment, no one wants a fee increment and we are still trying to negotiate and see what can come out,” Ntshwanti said.

He also told Wits Vuvuzela that a statement regarding a possible national shutdown would be released shortly.