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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s government plan to offer free higher education for students from poor and working class households will be implemented in a “fiscally sustainable manner”, President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday.Following a recommendation by a commission on higher education funding, Zuma said the government will increase subsidies to universities to 1 percent of gross domestic product over the next five years from nearly 0.7 percent at present.Should this ICL scheme go ahead, the commission said it would reduce a significant burden in the financing of student education, the benefits of which could then be used to provide subsidies.The full summary of the report’s findings can be found here.To this end, the commission recommended that a new cost-sharing model be introduced between the public and private sectors, which would take the form of an income contingent loan (ICL) made available by the private sector (banks) for the full cost of study.
It can then be extended to post-graduate students and those past students who were historically indebted at a later date.This includes long unclaimed pension fund benefits which would be subject to further guarantees of repayment should they be claimed at a later date.Other proposals include the use of BBBEE points as funding, as well as the creation of an education fund funded by the private sector.President Jacob Zuma’s decision to offer free education to first-year students in 2018 should be welcomed if the country can afford it‚ the chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) said on Monday.
“The decision has to be welcomed‚ assuming that the country can afford to do all of that‚” NSFAS chair Sizwe Nxasana said on Radio 702.
"National Student Financial Aid Scheme packages already allocated to existing NSFAS students in their further years of study will be converted from loans to 100% grants effective immediately." Zuma added: "In order to achieve its intended targets of access and success‚ fully subsidised full cost of study will include tuition fees‚ prescribed study material‚ meals‚ accommodation and/or transport.