The much anticipated report of the Heher Commission, recommends among others, the scrapping of the National Students Financial Assistance Scheme and “cost-sharing model” through which government will guarantee “Income-Contingency Loans” (ICL) from commercial banks.
The commission recommends that government provides guaranteed loans to students, which will be payable upon the student graduation and having attained a “specific income threshold”.
In the event that a student fails to reach the stipulated threshold, government will bear “the secondary liability”.
It is not known if this report put paid to President Jacob Zuma’s purported plan that calls for free higher education estimated to cost the country R40-billion to implement.
The Fees Commission was set up to look into the feasibility of free higher education to all students irrespective of their backgrounds.
This followed massive widespread students protest under the banner of #FeesMustfall movement across most university campuses.
The Commission recommends government increase “Blocking funding” to both post-school education and training sector to keep up with increased costs for providing quality education and infrastructure.
It recommends government increase its expenditure on higher education and training to at least 1% of the GDP and a specific attention also be paid to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges because “they cannot perform at their current funding levels”.
Regarding student accommodation, the Commission noted the “severe shortage of student accommodation” at universities and recommends that government adopt “an affordable plan” to establish more student residences particularly at historically disadvantaged institutions.
To address funding and capacity challenges facing the higher education and training sector, the Commission recommends that government should look into “investigation of the viability of online and blended learning” as possible alternatives.
It also recommends that all students at TVETs should “receive a fully subsidised free education in the form of grants that cover their full cost of study and that no students should be partially funded”. However, the Commission recommends, NRF post graduate students’ bursaries should be “retained and expanded where possible” and that the students should also have access to cost-sharing model that involves government’ guaranteed loans from the commercial banks. The same goes for students with a “historical debt”.
On NSFAS, the Commission recommends the funding of university students be replaced by the ICL system, adding that the scheme should be retained only for the provision of the funding to all TVET students.
Zuma said the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Higher Education Funding and the Presidential Fiscal Committee led by Ministers Jeff Radebe and Malusi Gigaba, respectively, are currently “processing the report”.
Said president Zuma: “I will make a pronouncement on the report once the ministers have concluded their work.”
Click here for a full report