No money in Treasury budget for zero fee rise

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The Treasury has told the Fees Commission that it has not budgeted for a 0% university fees increase next year.

The Treasury made a submission to the commission this morning in Vanderbiljlpark‚ south of Johannesburg‚ where it is holding public hearings. The hearings started on Wednesday. The commission is tasked to investigate the feasibility of offering fee-free higher education in the country.

Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande
Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande

Michael Sachs‚ the deputy director-general in the budget office at Treasury‚ told the commission that in October and February this year economic growth and inflation were significantly revised to accommodate‚ among other things‚ the 0% fee increase in university fees.

He said the gross tax revenue for the 2015/16 fiscal year was reviewed to R1-trillion; R11.6-billion lower than the original estimate at the 2015 budget.

He explained that the Treasury made available R16.2-billion to the Department of Higher Education over the next three years and part of the money addressed the 0% fee increase and shortfalls in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

Asked by the chairperson of the commission‚ Judge Jonathan Heher‚ whether the Treasury would make money available for a 0% fee increase next year‚ he answered: “This was responding to the 0% fee increase last year‚ for the current year we have not budgeted for a 0% fee increase.”

The revelations by the Treasury are likely to anger students‚ who are demanding that fees are not increased next year. Some student organisations such as the Pan African Student Movement and South African Union of Students have threatened that they will go back to the streets and protest‚ should their demands for a free higher education are not met.

Last year‚ students under the #FeesMustFall protests shut down higher education institutions in their demand for free higher education for all. In December‚ President Jacob Zuma announced that there will be a no- fee increase this year.

Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande was expected to hold a press briefing this afternoon where he was going to make an announcement about university fees next year‚ but this has been postponed.

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