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Universities still studying Fees Commission report

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President Jacob Zuma addressing the media at the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Services Prison during the 40th anniversary of the death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko 12 September 2017 Pretoria

Universities had been waiting for the Presidency to release the Fees Commission report since President Jacob Zuma received it in August.

"The university would continue to work with all parties to find ways of making education more accessible".

This is contained in the 748-page commission report‚ in which retired judge Jonathan Heher probed the feasibility of free tertiary education. Should the student fail to reach the required income threshold‚ government bares the secondary liability.

"The state can guarantee the loan or, better still, purchase the loan, so that the student becomes a debtor in its books..."

"... It is recommended that students with debt‚ who have since graduated‚ be offered income-contingent loans (ICL) as well".

The commission also recommended that all students studying at both public and private universities be funded through cost-sharing government-guaranteed loans sourced from commercial banks.

"Closer examination of the specific loan requirements and graduates' future job prospects would be required to determine possible consequences". Instead, Nsfas would be retained for the provision of funding at institutions including Technical Vocational Education and Training, known as TVET colleges.

The commission also recommended that registration and application fees at universities and colleges be "scrapped across the board".

The findings contradict Zuma's unconfirmed and populist plan of pushing for a free-higher education policy for students coming from families earning a combined annual income of not more than R350 000. The Mail & Guardian has confirmed that Morris Masutha - an ex-boyfriend of one of Zuma's daughters - came up with the proposal.

"Fears that President Zuma is set to announce free higher education will continue to weigh, particularly as nearly every broadsheet in the country read the story on the front page over the weekend", RMB currency strategist John Cairns told Fin24.

At the time, Zuma said he was studying and working on the report's contents and consulting the relevant ministers, excluding Nzimande, who was sacked by Zuma in his cabinet reshuffle in October.

The report released Monday by Zuma said the commission recommended the government increase bloc funding to the Post School Education and Training Sector (PSET) as a whole in line with increased costs for providing quality education and infrastructure needs.

The president reportedly planned to reveal a R40-billion free higher education plan on Tuesday last week but was stopped in his tracks by senior officials in Treasury warning it would spur an economic crisis.

Zuma will comment on the report once the ministers tasked with studying the document have concluded their work.

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