owe Eastern Cape Universities more than R100-million this year ? a debt
which threatens to cripple operations in some institutions. Leading the
pack is the newly merged Walter Sisulu University with a R94-million
debt, followed by Fort Hare University at R6,3-million, while Rhodes
University students owe R2,9- million.
was owed more than R78-million last year, while WSU and Rhodes refused
to disclose last year?s debt figure. The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan
University, figures for which were not available at the time of going
to press, was owed R101,9-million at the end of July last
year. NMMU spokesman Roslyn Baatjies said she could not give
out the latest debt figures because registration was still under way
and financial year-end transactions were still being
completed. WSU spokesman Angela Church said the non-payment
of fees hurt the institution?s cashflow. ?It is vital for the provision
of quality education and service for student fees to be paid in full,?
Debt recovery strategies ? like not
permitting students to graduate if they still owed money, and not
allowing them to register if they carried over outstanding fees from
the previous academic year ? could be applied. However, she
said the university also had a commitment towards needy students.
with the academic ability should not be excluded from progressing.
Every effort is made to procure financial assistance to ensure that
(those) students are able to graduate,” Church
said. Fort Hare has decided to challenge the national
government to help fund students.
spokesman Luthando Bara said a letter had been sent to Education
Minister Naledi Pandor asking her to make more bursaries and loans
available to students there. Bara said the university was increasingly
dependent on student fees and donations as declining government
subsidies hurt investment in facilities and the development of
”Since the subsidy is
only paid in the second term each year, income from student fees is
crucial to funding university activities, especially in the first three
months,” said Bara. The registration window period
“ due to close on Friday “ had to be extended for
some weeks to enable students to raise funds and pay their debt.
student debt is not much of a problem at Rhodes University. Finance
director Anton Vorster said only two per cent of last year’s
debt was still outstanding. He said even its R2,9-million student debt
was now being repaid, as all returning students had to settle their
fees by the end of this month if they intended to further their studies
at the university. ”In the case of non-returning
students, if the debt remains unpaid, we will hand the matter over to
attorneys and collect the money in a normal debt collection
process,” Vorster said. ”Student debt has
no detrimental impact on the running of the university at all, as our
collection methods are very sound.”