Experiences of students facing financial difficulties to access higher Education in the case of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Shange, Nokukhanya Sharon.
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Students from disadvantaged backgrounds experience difficulties when making a transition from their backgrounds into a challenging and diverse multi-cultural education institutions environment. Due to their disadvantaged backgrounds these students are faced with enormous financial challenges that have adverse impacts on their academic performance. They therefore need solid support structures to help them make adjustments to meet the demands of higher education. This study explored experiences of students facing financial difficulties to access Higher Education in the case of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Using a qualitative approach in collecting data, the study tried to find out the experiences of students and effects of financial problems on academic performance. Economic, ecosystems and social justice framework provided the theoretical underpinning for the study. Economic theory helped the researcher to find out students’ experiences and how they cope. Ecosystems theory helped the researcher to look and understand interaction between individuals and society as a whole because financial difficulties to access Higher education is a social issue that affect individuals, families and societies. Social justice focuses on policy, national and institutional efforts in eliminating the identified financial problems faced by disadvantaged students at tertiary institutions. The tool that was used to collect data were semi-structured interviews which were orally questioning participants to express their views and beliefs of the impacts of financial difficulties in accessing higher education. This enabled the researcher to use an interpretivist paradigm which is qualitative in approach. Qualitative approach provided a descriptive and detailed data about the researched phenomenon. In-depth interviews were done with 15 participants at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Howard, Westville and PMB campus). Results of the study show that due to financial problems, the students encounter problems such as inability to cope with the high standards of studying as well as difficulty in paying fees and accessing basic needs. Data gathered from the interviews insinuates that financial problems have adverse effects on students’ academic performance, but contrary to the study’s assumptions, and review of secondary data, no correlation could be found between financial need and poor academic performance or outright failure.