Higher education at the precipice : financing higher education: a stakeholders’ perspective at Howard College.
Maphumulo, Gugu Dada Cindy-Carol.
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The #FeesMustFall campaign of 2015 was a result of social dynamics which placed South African universities between a rock and a hard place. The fixing of the problem revolves around National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), therefore, student funding needs rethinking as student academic choices must not be constrained by their socio-economic status. The aim of this study was to gain insight and understanding into the dynamics of higher education and funding using Howard College (University of KwaZulu-Natal) as a case study. The tools that were used to collect data include interviews and questionnaires which are compatible with a mixed method approach. This enabled the researcher to use methodological triangulation in which both qualitative and quantitative data was collected in a sequential approach. In-depth interviews were done with five stakeholders and one hundred self-administered questionnaires to undergraduate students at the Howard College campus. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected and triangulated. Some of the key findings of this study suggest that while NSFAS is a loan scheme, it was helping to some extent but was insufficient because the demand was huge. Violence by students was a tactic to have their voices heard in the face of a University management that resorted to calling the police instead of engaging with students regarding their concerns. The study also found out that the #FeesMustFall campaign was not targeted at Universities but at the government. By virtue of the fact that NSFAS is a student loan scheme, students prefer other lines of assistance such as bursaries, grants and scholarships as the loan tended to put the students under heavy indebtedness before they have even completed their studies. The study recommends that alternative sources of funding should be found particularly involving the private sector as it is the main beneficiary of the products of universities – the graduates. By going online, NSFAS was disadvantaging the already disadvantaged students who do not have the digital exposure such as most of those who attended high schools and found themselves in the cities. Students saw higher education as a right which the government must fulfil. The study concludes by noting that providing free higher education is a political decision with serious economic repercussions such that reconciling these diametrically opposed perspectives requires cool heads and sober reflections by all stakeholders.