Zuma Announces Fees Have Finally Fallen ... or Have They? Here's What You Need to Know

No more student debt? Yes, please!

Talk about a plot twist! President Jacob Zuma announced that fees have fallen for poor and working-class students.

Despite a full inquiry by the Heher Commission confirming that SA doesn’t have the capacity to make education free, Zuma is making his own rules.

‘Having amended the definition of poor and working-class students, government will now introduce fully subsidised free higher education and training for poor and working-class South African undergraduate students, starting in 2018 with students in their first year of study at our public universities,’ Zuma announced on Saturday.

What does that mean for you? We’ve got all the facts you need to know:

1 All poor and working-class SA students enrolled at public universities and TVET colleges get a free education

Working-class students are defined as coming from a household with a combined income of R350 000 a year.

The good news: This means that tuition, textbooks, res accommodation, meals and transport will be subsidised by the government.

The bad news: This doesn’t apply to technikons or private colleges and universities.

NB: This only applies if you’re in first year next year

2 No more student loans!

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme will take all student loans and convert them to grants.

The good news: No more student debt going forward!

The bad news: Historical student debt is still an issue. Whether or not the debts will be converted to grants will need to be decided by the Minister of Higher Education and the National Treasury.

3 No fee increases for students from households earning up to R600 000 during 2018

4 Increased funding for universities will be available in 2022

In the next five years, funding to help working-class students in university will increase from 0,86% to 1%, as per the Heher’s report.

The good news: If you’re heading to uni in five years time, you may qualify for state funding.

The bad news: This isn’t a possibility for a while, so business as usual for 2018.

5 None of this is confirmed – it may not even be possible.

The is where only bad news comes in…

Remember the Heher Commission report? The feasibility of fee-free higher education and training was determined to be impossible for SA.

At this point, nobody knows how this miracle of free education is going to happen.

Economists are claiming this announcement has ulterior motives, and it’s looking rather shady.

Some say the decision is an effort to gain popularity at the 54th ANC conference. The conference determines the next president of the party, and Zuma is rooting for ex-wife and former SA Health Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

The announcement is apparently a shock to plenty of ministers, and who knows if Zuma has the authority to make such bold claims. Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said the details of how exactly these promises of free education are going to work will all be revealed in the National Budget speech in February 2018. No details are currently available.

Without details, it seems unlikely this POA will be in effect in time for new students in 2018.

Until then, it’s best not to wait with bated breath. If the ruling does succeed, it could be a game-changer for over 90% of South African students who qualify for funding.

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