Fee increase will assist more needy students

18 December 2008 | Story by Helen Théron

UCT will raise its fees by an average of 13.2% next year in a bid to provide financial support to a greater number of needy students.

By doing so the university hopes to boost its total financial aid funding available to students to around R245 million.

Fee increases will range from 10% and 14% in 2009.

Besides providing more resources to help needy students, an important transformation imperative, the fees increase will also result in a once-off catch up following three years of low fee increases. For example, the fee increase for 2008 (7,76%) was far below the inflation rate.

The fee increases for previous years were 8.8% in 2006 and 7.7% in 2007.

"In the current economic environment we are facing a significant increase in recurrent operating costs," said Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price.

"Financial support to students is a critical transformation imperative. We cannot speak about transformation through education without dealing with the issues providing financial support for students. The majority of students in South Africa simply cannot afford university fees."

In raising fees UCT will create additional income to help poorer students. This will be used to assist a group of lower-income students who do not qualify for financial assistance from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

For students on financial aid whose families earn under R200 000, the contribution that they pay UCT will generally be lower than in 2008. Bursaries for the financially needy have been increased by over 50% from 2008.

In addition, UCT will increase financial support to students whose families earn under R400 000, by providing a guaranteed loan of up to R38 000 converting to a bursary according to the NSFAS rules.

"Most of these students were previously not eligible for financial aid," Price said. "This intervention came about because UCT identified that middle income groups have traditionally been the hardest hit by fee increases and one of the key objectives of our new fee policy is to assist students in this category."

The model UCT has adopted, coupled with a generous financial aid policy, will enable UCT to increase its financial aid in 2009 to over R70 million. Of this R23 million will be used for merit scholarships and increased allocations for postgraduate students.

The balance of R47 million will go towards financial aid bursaries and towards assisting students needing residence accommodation. In addition, UCT processes a further R17 million in bursaries arising from donations. UCT students also attract R110 million annually from corporate bursary schemes. All of this is in addition to the R48 million available through the NSFAS bursary/loan scheme.

With the new financial aid packages for 2009, students from families with annual incomes below R400 000 are likely to pay less than at other comparable South African universities.

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