How is Blade Nzimande planning to finance R51bn NSFAS shortfall? - Belinda Bozzoli

DA MP says white paper proposes a further 2.3m students be admitted to universities and colleges

Nzimande must explain how R51 billion NSFAS shortfall will be financed

26 October 2014

The DA notes announcements made, this week, by the Minister of Finance, Nhlanhla Nene, that R200 billion is to be spent over the MTEF period on higher education and post-school skills development. This is good news, but in fact it represents only, at most, R14.8 billion more than would already have been provided for higher education and skills.

We will be submitting parliamentary questions to ascertain how the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, plans to spend this money and whether or not he will be prioritising the R51 billion NSFAS shortfall. The R14.8bn increase will be grossly insufficient for this and other urgent needs in the higher education and training arena. 

Earlier in the week, the joint Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training and Appropriations was briefed on the fact that NSFAS would require an additional R51 billion to meet its proposed targets. This is an enormous number. We are seriously concerned that NSFAS will not receive the required appropriation and  that students will be left to fend for themselves. 

The White Paper on Higher Education and Training, which Minister Nzimande is tasked with implementing, proposes that a further 2.3 million students be admitted into Universities and Colleges. And yet the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) told the two committees that it will need a further R51 billion to support these students, the vast majority of whom will be from poor families and unable to pay for their own studies.

But this is not all: In addition Universities continue to struggle under the burden of steadily declining government subsidies, in real terms, a decline which has taken place over the past twenty years and which reflects shamefully upon the ANC-led government. These subsidies are the main source of funding for the staff who will be teaching the additional students. 

Whatever exact proportion of the R14.8bn is allocated to University subsidies, it will not compensate for the decline in subsidies, it will not put Universities in a position to sustain the teaching of the increased numbers of students envisaged, and it will not sustain the improvement in quality that we desperately need. 

At 0.7% of GDP, overall subsidies to Universities in South Africa are way below the levels required for our economy to be provided with the high level skills it will need over the next decade. Most societies spend a far greater proportion of their GDP on Universities. 

The Higher Education and Training sector remains unsustainable and the vision for this sector outlined in both the White Paper and NDP remains unimplementable. 

I will therefore be submitting parliamentary questions requesting the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, to ascertain how the funding gap for NSFAS will be addressed, and what he is planning to do to find funding to pay for Universities to have the capacity to teach additional students. Are we going to adjust our targets? Will more money be made available? Or will we find an alternative funding strategy? These are urgent questions that must be answered by Minister Nzimande. 

Statement issued by Prof Belinda Bozzoli MP, DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education, October 26 2014

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