Universities raising money to help support poor, missing middle students
Universities are bracing for a flood of capable but poor students, who cannot afford fees this new academic year.
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Several universities and their students have over the past few years put the plight of those who cannot afford to study at the forefront, developing fundraising measures to help the youth realise their dreams of acquiring an academic qualification.
Outside of bursaries, scholarships, and the state’s National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas), the previously white-only universities and students lead the pack when it comes to attracting donations to fund those who need a helping hand.
The impactful #FeesMustFall campaign between 2015 and 2016, that culminated in countrywide student protests, helped elevate the dire state of access to higher education, but free education remains a distant dream.
The quest for free education for all was shot down by Judge Jonathan Heher’s report into the feasibility of free higher education, when he found that funding was “inadequate and unsustainable” and that those who can afford to pay – must pay.
To date, most of the needy students would have never finished their studies had it not been for a much-needed cash injection from donations, albeit limited, so they can get to the finish line and graduate.
This cohort also includes the “missing middle” – these are those who do not qualify for state funding but are too poor to finance their studies.
Several institutions also have meal programmes for the hungry on campus.
According to UCT Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng, the institution has spent R100 million more on student financial aid in 2022.
“UCT’s provision of student financial assistance is the cornerstone of our transformation initiative to assist academically and financially deserving students.
“In our effort to assist as many deserving students as possible, our projection for 2022 shows that at least R1.9 billion (unaudited) has been spent by a number of key financial aid sponsors in support of UCT students. This amount is an increase of R100 million compared to what UCT spent on student financial aid in 2021,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.
Despite the fundraising efforts, more funding is required for South Africa’s 26 public universities and 50 TVET colleges.
Universities, however, rely more on the government for funding, followed by tuition fees as the second biggest income stream.
Statistics SA noted that the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020‒2021 disrupted the operations of higher education institutions, with notable effects on revenue streams, especially in 2020.
“In 2021, the second biggest source of money after government grants was tuition fees, accounting for 36% of total revenue. Government grants contributed 47%, while the remainder was from other sources such as donations and research income.
“If we consider all higher education institutions, the percentage of total revenue from tuition fees shifted from 33% in 2019 (before the pandemic) to 36% in 2021. As the lockdown disrupted operations in 2020, government transfers [grants] increased while the amount received from tuition fees declined.”
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