Students to pay inflation-linked university fee hikes in 2018

WEB_PHOTO_WITS-MARCH_c_28092016

University of Witwatersrand (WITS) Student Representative Council Members lead WITS Students trough the Johannesburg CBD during the Fees Must Fall. Protest. 28 September 2016

Editor&39;s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that universities have agreed they need an 8 percent increase in income, rather than that there will be an 8 percent increase in fees. 

JOHANNESBURG - University tuition fees for 2018 will be increased in line with inflation, according to Universities SA (USAf). 

In a statement on Thursday, USAf said the higher education price index (HEPI) runs at about 1.7 percent the consumer price index  and so the vast majority of the 26 universities that are its members had determined that the inflationary income adjustment increase for 2018 will be set at 8 percent.

USAf chief executive officer Ahmed Bawa said some universities had negotiated an 8 percent increase in fees with students, while others were still hoping for an indication from the government before determining the increase that would be passed on to students.

The issue of free tertiary education had yet to be settled as the country waits for an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on higher education to process the report by the Fees Commission, USAf said. 

President Jacob Zuma released the report last month but said he would make a pronouncement on it only once the IMC has considered it. 

The commission found free higher education is not feasible, but it recommended TVET colleges be fee-free and that all university students be funded through a cost-sharing model of government guaranteed income-contingency loans sourced from commercial banks.

READ: Activists united in opposition to fees report

USAf said "universities cannot wait perpetually for the outcomes of that process. The 2018 academic year is literally upon us and they face the challenge of operating as institutions on the 1st of January."

In the meantime, universities say they must draw up realistic budgets that would allow the institutions to function "at a decent level."

The body said it has held discussions with the Minister of Higher Education and Training Hlengiwe Mkhize "about the need for the state, in the absence of any clarity on its approach on the fees issue in the medium- to long-term, to put in place an effective subsidy dispensation for an inflationary income adjustment for two groups of students."

READ: Fees commission findings shifting the burden to the taxpayer: analysts

This includes students who qualify for NSFAS loans, as well as the so-called "missing middle" i.e. when the total annual family income of a student is above the NSFAS threshold of R122,000 and below R600,000.

USAf explained that higher education price index (HEPI) runs at about 1.7 percent above the Consumer Price Index, which is why it is at eight percent. 

"It must be emphasised that this provides for nothing more than an inflation-adjusted budget. It will allow the universities to hold their operations at current levels without having, at this stage, to resort to drastic cuts and retrenchments."