South Africa: University Fee Hikes a Gremlin for Students in the 'Missing Middle'


With few options for funding, students in the missing middle bear the brunt of rising fees. These students typically have an annual household income of between R350,000 and R600,000. An estimated 350,000 students fall into this category and funding options are scarce.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

The "missing middle". It's a term that's been thrown around since the #FeesMustFall revolution back in 2015 and refers to university students who are too "rich" to qualify for government subsidies, yet too poor to afford university fees.

According to Universities South Africa Office (USAf) CEO Professor Ahmed Bawa, a major problem in the higher education sector is the lack of a "national system" to address student funding for the missing middle. And with few safety nets in place, university fee hikes for 2021 could spell disaster for this vulnerable group.

Last year, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande proposed tuition and accommodation fee increases of 4.7% and 6.7% respectively, amid a shrinking economy and rising unemployment.

Most universities have agreed to the minister's proposals and hiked their tuition fees by nearly 5%. Stellenbosch bucked the trend, however, and raised fees by close to 3.7% for undergraduate and postgraduate students...

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