Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande says the call made by students to have a moratorium on university fees will benefit the rich.
He told a briefing in Pretoria on Monday that a zero fee increase in academic fees was not feasible because there are parents who can afford to pay.
“Students have a right to protest‚ but they have a duty to understand that we are a highly unequal society… A moratorium means you are campaigning for the rich‚” Nzimande said.
Students have been calling for fees to be frozen in all higher education institutions while the Fees Commission does its work.
Apart from Nzimande’s consultations with a range of stakeholders‚ a presidential fees commission headed by Justice Jonathan Heher is looking into the feasibility of free higher education and training. It is expected to submit a preliminary report to President Jacob Zuma in November and a full report in June.
Tuition costs did not go up in 2016 as a result of last year’s #feesmustfall protests‚ but Nzimande said they actually did go up by 6%‚ it is just that the State cushioned the impact of the increase.
While declining a moratorium on 2017 fee increases‚ he said that the duty of determining the extent of university fee hikes rested with the universities and not with him. He then recommended that university fees be capped at 8%.
“We have looked at the challenges at hand from all sides and have concluded that the best approach would be to allow universities individually to determine the level of increase that their institutions will require to ensure that they continue to operate effectively‚” he said.
“With the caution that this has to also take into account the affordability of students… therefore [the increase] has to be transparent‚ reasonable and related to inflation…Our recommendation is that fee adjustments should not go above 8 percent‚” said Nzimande.
The minister added that government is committed to finding the resources to support children of all poor‚ working and middle class families.
He committed the government to paying the 2017 increase for students from poor and middle income households‚ with family income of up to R600‚000 per annum.
“Government will pay for the adjustment. This will bring huge relief to nurses‚ teachers‚ police‚ social workers and other parents who work in occupations that do not earn huge salaries‚” Nzimande said.
This support will also apply to students at Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges.
Nzimande would not be drawn on the details of this student fee subsidy‚ stating that this would be outlined by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.