Universities have noted the release by President Jacob Zuma of the Heher Commission report looking into the feasibility of fee-free higher education and training while a student leader has called the report's findings worse than expected.
The commission found that there was currently no capacity for the state to provide free tertiary education to all students in the country.
Most universities said they were still studying the report and would comment once they had analysed the document.
The executive summary of the commission's report stated that there was "insufficient financial capacity in the state to provide totally free higher education and training to all who are unable to finance their own education, let alone to all students, whether in need or not".
Zuma released the much-anticipated report at around 12:30 on Monday.
University of Pretoria spokesperson Rikus Delport said the university was currently studying the report before making a decision about its next step.
"Neither the university council nor the executive has any control over national policy on funding for universities. The fees issue is a national problem which requires a national policy decision.
"We will continue to work with all parties to find ways of making education more accessible," Delport said.
'We are very, very disappointed'
University of Cape Town spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the executive was grateful that it finally had the report.
"On face value, the executive is impressed with the thoroughness of the report. It appears that the matter was taken very seriously and that many inputs from academics have been included in the final report. The executive believes that the report needs serious consideration and will now study the details before commenting further."
Stellenbosch University's Martin Viljoen said the university welcomed the report and it would study the recommendations.
Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) spokesperson Lauren Kansley said after studying the report, the university would be able to implement appropriate financial planning measures for the 2018 year.
CPUT central SRC secretary-general Mbaliyezwe Madikizela said the news was worse than anything "we could've ever expected".
"We are very, very disappointed - we were expecting free education at least for the poor and the middle class, all I can say about the report is that we reject it."
Madikizela said the SRC would meet to discuss a way forward.
"We were all expecting free education
"For the sake of academic progress, since most people are busy with academics, we are going to wait until after exams are completed before we take any action.
'Free education for the missing middle'
Madikizela said it seemed that the president planned the timing of the release of the report to coincide with a period in the exam cycle when a large number of students would not be on campus or would be "heading home".
"Releasing the report now destabilises us in terms of planning," she said.
University of Cape Town SRC president Karabo Khakhau said it was still looking at the report and would be meeting to discuss its contents.
He said the SRC was pleased that the report "provides a direction and stance we can take with management". However, he pointed out, the report's recommendations still had to be considered by the president.
"We would still like to see free education for the missing middle. Our general consensus for fees in 2018 is that no student should be excluded from education because of fees."
Stellenbosch University SRC chairperson Lwando Nkamisa said: "We are studying the report and will be having an emergency exec meeting tonight where we will formulate a stance."
Rhodes SRC vice president Dingaan Bongisipho Zacharia Booi said: "We are currently in meetings and will be engaging with the student population in due time on a way forward."
Walter Sisulu University spokesperson Yonela Tukwayo said: "We are still studying the report and applying our minds with regards to the report. We will comment after we have gone through the report."
Wits SRC president Oridiretsi Masebe said: "We need to meet with the SRC, discuss the report and then we can comment further."
University of Johannesburg's Herman Esterhuizen also asked for time to study the report before commenting.