Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Details have emerged of the new tertiary education funding scheme intended to end the discord that has rocked campuses across the country. Now the race is on to be one of 2‚000 students in the "missing middle" scheme’s pilot programme.

February 24 is the deadline for applications for the Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme devised by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s funding task team. In the proposed model — led by former FirstRand head Sizwe Nxasana — Ikusasa will raise money from the government‚ the private sector‚ non-profit organisations‚ the skills levy‚ financial institutions‚ donors‚ retirement funds and social impact bonds.

It will be used to fund students from households with an annual income between R122‚000 and R600‚000 — the "missing middle". The funding will be available to successful applicants for the duration of the pilot programme.

Seven institutions will be part of this year’s pilot‚ and participating students must be studying in one of eight areas. The institutions are Tshwane University of Technology; Orbit TVET College in Rustenburg; the University of Cape Town (UCT); the University of Pretoria; University of the Witwatersrand; the University of Venda; and Walter Sisulu University.

The study areas‚ identified as critical to the country’s future by the Human Resources Development Council‚ are actuarial science; professional artisan studies; chartered accountancy; engineering; medicine; pharmaceuticals; prosthetics; and scarce humanities degrees.

The Ikusasa application form describes the programme as "a hybrid funding model structured in the form of a grant/loan/family contribution". From 2018‚ when it is intended that Ikusasa take over all funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme‚ "means-tested students who come from very poor backgrounds ... will receive fully subsidised funding".

"Students from middle-income families will receive funding that is split between grant‚ loan and family contribution based on [Ikusasa’s] financial means test results‚ with a greater portion of their studies falling in the grant section during their first and second year of study."

Ikusasa would also assist with money for accommodation‚ meals‚ books‚ equipment and a stipend‚ as well as providing academic‚ social and psychological support. This would be done using "a unique wraparound support model developed and successfully implemented by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants’ (SAICA) Thuthuka Bursary Fund".

"It takes more than the provision of financial support to make financially disadvantaged students successful in their studies‚" says the Ikusasa documentation. "There is a need to provide individual and family security as well as both professional and social skills if students are to truly thrive." By addressing this‚ "the only thing Ikusasa-funded students need to concentrate on is their studies".

Task-team member Chantyl Mulder‚ executive director of SAICA‚ said, "You are not just investing in students‚ you are investing in their success."

Ikusasa says it wants participants in the pilot programme to be willing to put their studies first: "They will be part of a programme that‚ if successful‚ has the potential to change the lives of thousands of students in SA."

Tasneem Salasa‚ the manager of student financial aid at UCT‚ said even if missing-middle students applied to the pilot programme, they should continue with applications to sponsors and UCT. "The more options you have‚ the better your chances of getting the best funding‚" she said.

TMG Digital

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