South Africa’s higher education minister, Blade Nzimande, has said student debt posed a serious threat to the future sustainability of the country’s higher education institutions.
Nzimande stated on Tuesday that there was currently R16.5 billion in student loan debt outstanding to higher institutions.
The department also announced that all prospective students who had been approved for NSFAS funding would be able to register for the 2023 academic year without having to pay a registration fee.
The minister added that the government was committed to concluding consultations on the comprehensive student funding model when it came to the problem of student debt. Eye Witness News quotes him as saying:
We have got a report now of the ministerial task team and we’re just concluding consultations on that, with the aim of going back to Cabinet to hopefully adopt a comprehensive student funding model on that with the aim of going back to Cabinet by the end of the current financial year or not very late in the new financial year.
Nzimande said the money owed to learning institutions could be directed towards infrastructure development and or growing the academic system.
The minister has reminded prospective students who have not yet applied for NSFAS funding that they can still do so until 31 January.
University fees have been a controversial topic in South Africa, with many students having to take out loans at exorbitant interest rates to try and get qualifications to fight for a spot in the tight job market.