The affordability of higher education is a matter of great concern. Student fees have risen faster than consumer inflation at most universities for many years and relative to average family income. At stake is the government’s approach to this question and the implications for the higher education sector. In December 2017, former president Jacob Zuma announced an enormous expansion of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to provide comprehensive financial aid to students with a combined annual family income of less than R350,000. While the expansion is a significant step towards ensuring financial inclusion, there is concern about its implication for the higher education sector. The expanded NSFAS leaves the government with a very large financial obligation to students that can only be controlled by managing the number of eligible students and the fees that universities charge. Enrolment has long been controlled by the Department of Higher Education and Training, but th...

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