University ‘relies heavily’ on payments
RHODES University has scarce financial reserves and would close within two to three months if students did not pay their fees, vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela has warned.
“We are heavily reliant on student fees and any attempt on the part of students not to pay will completely cripple this university,” Mabizela said.
If the government had not paid in full the R42-million shortfall the university had experienced due to the freezing of fee increases last year, Rhodes would have been in deep trouble.
“We are a well-run university but we simply have no reserves to speak of,” the vice-chancellor said.
“We try to run this tight ship as effectively and efficiently as we can. We are able to meet our obligations.”
He said the impression it was a “rich” university was wrong and any reserves it did have were from outside agencies and strictly ring-fenced for particular purposes such as bursaries or research.
“We can’t touch that money for anything else.”
But Mabizela is confident that Rhodes students would not seek to boycott fee payments and would not return to university this year with further fee protests in mind.
Student registration at several universities across the country has been disrupted by a continuation of the campaign.
Mabizela, who is an avid supporter of finding means to ensure that no academically deserving student is denied a higher education, said most issues raised by students last year had been settled.
He said had rightly highlighted the fact that high fees barred the poor and working class from a quality higher education.
“It has also brought into focus the ‘ missing middle’ whose families earn marginally just too much to qualify for NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] but who remain too poor to afford a higher education for their children.”
Mabizela said the issue was finally being given urgent attention and the government was committed to dealing with it.
The government had redirected significant resources to address challenges in the funding of higher education.
NSFAS had been boosted to R10-billion and some R6-billion had been made available to deal with the freeze on fee increases and historic debt.
“Government has done remarkably well – within the context of a poorly performing economy, a plummeting rand, significant socio-economic challenges and devastating drought – to commit significant funding into higher education.”
He said given the appointment of a commission to look into long-term university funding issues, there seemed little reason for anyone to disrupt registration.
The university would not tolerate any violence or damage to property, he said.
First-year registration at the university begins on the weekend of February 6.
By Adrienne Carlisle
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