Financial Exclusion Has Consequences For Students

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Operations at two Western Cape universities have been disrupted this week due to protests. And while stakeholders work to find a solution, many students are left battling to continue their studies.

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The issue of financial exclusion has sparked protests at several universities, as Student Representative Councils (SRC) vow that students will not be left behind due to factors beyond their control.

The financial exclusion of students prevents them from continuing their qualification, obtaining their degree, graduating and could impact on their ability to secure employment.

This week alone, protests disrupted the start of the 2023 academic year at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

The UCT SRC called on campuses to be closed until all student funding and housing crisis challenges being experienced by students are resolved. The SRC will hold a night vigil on 16 February 2023 for students facing fee blocks and those being impacted by accommodation challenges.

Students facing financial exclusion feel helpless as many fall into the “missing middle” category.

The missing middle refers to students who come from households that exceed the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) household income threshold of R350,000. However, these households cannot afford to absorb the cost of tertiary education.

Solutions to fund missing middle students are currently being developed by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande revealed the government is investigating introducing a loan scheme to assist missing middle students. Information of this missing middle student loan is set to be revealed when the DHET publishes its Comprehensive Student Funding model.

University of Pretoria Student Emile Coetzee says their lack of funding has left them feeling demotivated and demoralised, as they were told by the institutions financial aid office they are too rich for aid.

UCT law student Zeta Gertson says their programme was defunded in 2021. This left them scrambling to secure funding to continue and complete their studies.

The issues faced by these students are not unique and several platforms have been created to help students raise funds for their studies. In some cases, these crowdfunding platforms have enabled students to raise thousands of rands to continue studying. One such platform is Feenix


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Student receiving Nsfas applications

Bursaries provided by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme ensure that students from poor and working class backgrounds obtain undergraduate qualifications without worrying about the cost. Most of the students enrolled at public institutions are recipients of the comprehensive bursaries.



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