The 2018 Budget speech took place on Wednesday, 21 February 2018 and one of the key announcements was that the Government will spend R57 billion on Free Higher education over the next three years.
“The largest reallocation of resources towards government’s priorities was on higher education and training, amounting to additional funding of R57 billion over the medium term. As a result, this is the fastest-growing spending category, with an annual average growth of 13.7%,” said Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.
The government will phase in fee-free higher education and training to students from poor and working-class families.
This means that all new first-year students with a family income below R350 000 per annum at universities and TVET colleges in the 2018 academic year will be funded for the full cost of the study. This then will be rolled out in subsequent years until all years of study are covered. This includes tuition fees, prescribed study material, meals, and a certain level of accommodation and/or travel allowances.
The bursary will apply only to students in their first year of study. More than 340 000 students at universities and over 420 000 full-time equivalent students at TVET colleges will be funded through this new bursary scheme in the 2018 academic year.
It was also announced that returning National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) students at the university will have their loans for 2018 onwards converted to a bursary.
In 2019, the arrangement will expand to cover first- and second-year students.
Meanwhile, returning NSFAS students from families with household incomes below R122 000 per year in their second, third or fourth year of university study in the 2018 academic year will also be supported.
These students will have their loans converted into bursaries under the same conditions as when they first received the financial support. This excludes TVET college students supported by NSFAS, who have always received bursaries, not loans.