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A survey conducted among over 1500 South African students revealed that 45% of the respondents believe that the cost of tertiary education in South Africa is fair, compared to 38% which was recorded in the previous survey conducted in October 2015.
Motshabi Nomvethe, Technical Marketing Specialist at PPS, says it is surprising to note that an increased number of students feel that the cost of tertiary education is fair in the country. “This could possibly be due to the fact that fees were not increased at the start of 2016 and students now consider themselves to be in a better position compared to the previous year.”
If we look at the #FeesMustFall campaign, there have been sporadic groups demonstrating in 2016 but nothing like that of October 2015, she adds. “This, paired with an intense focus on information provision and continuous consultation from tertiary institutions, has allowed students to fully understand why the costs of providing quality tertiary education are so high.”
The 2016 Student Confidence Index (SCI) was conducted among students in their fourth year or above, studying at a university or university of technology towards a profession-specific degree, such as engineering, medicine, law or accounting. Students answered questionnaires online, face-to-face on campus and via focus groups.
Nomvethe also states that South African public universities remain very dependent on state grants and tuition fees. South Africans should not only look to Government to resolve the issue of rising tertiary education costs, but realise that everyone has a role to play when it comes to alleviating this financial burden. Other streams of income, such as donations, sponsorships and research grants need to become more important. “Government, big corporates, tertiary institutions, young graduates and the students themselves all have a critical role to fulfil if we are ever to reduce the cost of education in our country to ensure that everybody has access to world class education.”
Should the Government and corporate organisations offer more bursaries and scholarships to graduates, this will enable young professionals to develop the key skills that are desperately needed in the country, she says. “If corporates help ensure that young graduates are trained to adapt to the workplace and gain experience in critical sectors, this will be very beneficial for the country’s economic standing and ultimately create an environment where the company can grow and succeed.”
She also states that financial institutions could also look at implementing less stringent requirements for student loans and offer young graduates lowered interest rates on these loans. “In turn, students then also have a responsibility of actually obliging to the repayment conditions of their loan and ensure that they adhere to the payments. If graduates do not repay their student loans, this creates a negative cycle as the loan providers cannot provide further loans to the generations to come as they wait for current loans to be paid.”
When asked whether the results of the #FeesMustFall campaign was proof that students’ voices and opinions are valued in the country, 69% of the students agreed with the statement. “During the focus group discussion the students advised that they were concerned about the Government’s slow response to the issue as a whole and they now need to focus on finishing their degree so that they can start earning money.”
Interestingly, 79% of the students indicated that the high cost of education in the country prohibits people from furthering their education in South Africa, down from 88% in October 2016. “So many young people want to study further so that they can have access to the same opportunities as those who can afford to study, however the rising cost of education hinders them,” explains Nomvethe.
She states that from the focus groups they conducted it was very clear that there is still a very strong sentiment that the cost is far too high and students are now looking to Government, not the tertiary institutions, for answers and a solution to the issue. “However, there are various stakeholders that have a role to play in reducing the cost of tertiary education in the country and through supportive collaboration our future generations should reap the benefits of quality and affordable education,” concludes Nomvethe.