It didn’t take long for the cabinet to throw the fiscal framework out of the window. Two weeks after the budget, with austerity beginning to bite, the government announced that it would reinstate the budget cuts made to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). This means finding at least another R18bn over the next three years: R6bn or so for this year to make up the shortfall, plus the carry-through for the next two years, at least, as students complete their degrees.

There is no doubt that tertiary education, especially university education, is the best ticket out of poverty. A Stellenbosch University research paper by Gideon du Rand and others, published in 2011, found that for the black population the marginal return to education (as measured in earnings) increases with each additional year of schooling completed. Completing the last year of primary school increases wage earnings by about 10% on average, while completing the last year of an undergraduate degree r...

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