The Fees Commission report found that while fee-free education across the board is fiscally irresponsible, doing away with application and registration fees isn’t.
South Africans finally got to read the Heher Commission report on Monday, 13 November. The findings of the inquiry weren’t exactly radical but it does agree with the #FeesMustFall movement’s demand for no application and registration fees. “Application and registration fees should be scrapped across the board,” read point 1052.41 of the report.
During the hearings, the Commission found out from students and student organisations that paying for a spot in university was an exclusionary practice. The South African Students Congress (Sasco) told the Commission that application and registration fees limits access to financially needy students. The Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA) also called for the removal of these fees so that “students be allowed to pay as and when they can pay during the academic year”.
The secretary general of Sasco Thembani Makata told The Daily Vox that this recommendation is the only progressive move to come out of the report, but Sasco is disappointed with the rest of the Commission’s proposals. “We feel like they disregarded the rest of our suggestions,” she said. Makata said Sasco is calling for the report to be scrapped.
The report said that the many students dependent on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to pay for all aspects of their tertiary education found themselves academically excluded. The Commission learnt that NSFAS had not paid out their grants or loans by the time the application and registration fees were due. This meant these students missed the start of the academic year and, for first-year students, missed important events like first-year orientation.
In 2016, some institutions, like the University of Cape Town, required students to pay R21 500 upfront.
While the report found that fee-free university education isn’t feasible, the recommendation to remove application and registration fees is an enabling move that removes the first level of financial exclusion. According to The Presidency, report is being processed by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Higher Education Funding and the Presidential Fiscal Committee. President Jacob Zuma will make final pronouncements once their work is done.