USAf’s Partnership with the SETAs produced close to R800 million to support 22 104 students

24-02-22 USAf 0 comment

In 2020, Universities South Africa (USAf) pledged to raise R1 billion in 24 months to assist students in need of support; are enrolled in undergraduate study programmes are not  supported by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) or by any other funding source. 

Typically, unfunded students have been found to bear the brunt of funding insecurity  at universities as they battle to pay their tuition fees. Over time, the accumulating debt affects their mental wellbeing, their academic performance and potentially blocks them from graduating.    Often referred to as “missing-middle students,” these are students from working class families whose annual family income is above the R350 000, which places them above the qualifying threshold of NSFAS –yet also precludes them from qualifying for study loans from commercial banks. Some of the funds raised by USAf are also targeted at postgraduate students in specific programmes who cannot access grants from the National Research Foundation due to general budget limitations. 

USAf’s fundraising project has, as of 20 February 2022, reached R795,710,719, including new pledges and commitments for up to 2023. From August 2020 to date, USAf’s fundraising has reached 22 104 students, thanks to generous contributions from both public and private sector entities. USAf’s main partners in this endeavour are six Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).  The bulk of the SETA funds received provided much-needed student debt relief and bursaries. 

Created using the Donation Thermometer plugin,000,000,000Raised R795,710,719 towards the R1,000,000,000 target.R795,710,719Raised R795,710,719 towards the R1,000,000,000 target.80%

Other  grants, primarily from partners such as ABSA and the Standard Bank Group, helped secure electronic learning devices to aid students from disadvantaged families who struggled when universities switched to remote teaching and learning in response to the global CoVID-19 pandemic. This intervention saw up to 1 677 students receiving new laptops. 

In 2022, the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Presidential Youth Employment Stimulus fund has also come on board, helping place 3,000 university graduates in work placement opportunities across the 26 public universities in 2022. 

Below is a summary of funds raised from 2020, starting with the 2022/23 allocations.

Funding pledged/secured for public universities in 2022/2023: (Jan-Feb 2022)

Source of GrantAllocation TypeGrant ValuesProject DurationStudents Supported
ETDP SETABursaries for B.Ed./ M.Sc studentsR 88 080 0002022 – 2023950
SERVICES SETAStudent Debt Relief 2021R 15 000 0002022350
DHET’s  Presidential Youth Employment StimulusPlacement of 3000 undergraduate studentsR 90 000 00020223000
  R 193 080 000 4 300

Funding secured for public universities in 2021/2022:

Source of GrantAllocation TypeGrant ValuesProject DurationStudents Supported
ETDP SETAUniversities Leadership Development Programme 2020 – 2022R 35 000 0002021 – 20231000
ETDP SETAStudent Debt Relief 2021R 45 000 00020211200
ETDP SETAStudent Debt ReliefR 58 100 0002021581
ETDP SETACustomer ServicesR 1 740 7192021n/a
FASSET SETAStudent Debt Relief 2021R 45 000 0002021 – 2022 730
FOODBEV SETAStudent Debt Relief 2021R 31 500 0002021749
W&R SETAStudent Debt Relief 2021R 30 000 0002021410
SASSETAStudent Debt Relief 2021R 15 000 0002021 – 2022 544
SASSETALaw Clinic ProjectR 8 400 0002021 – 2023 50
SERVICES SETAStudent Debt Relief 2021R 31 500 0002021 – 2022 645
  R 301 240 719 5 909

Funding secured for public universities in 2020/2021

Source of GrantAllocation TypeGrant ValuesProject DurationStudents Supported
ETDP SETAPostgraduate Project 2020 / 2021R 80 000 0002020 – 20222751
ETDP SETAUndergraduate Project 2020 / 2021R 200 0000002020 – 20227287
SASSETAStudent Bursaries 2020R 5 390 000202097
SASSETAStudent Bursaries 2020R 4 900 000 202083
SASSETASecurity Offices TrainingR 1 600 0002020n/a
AbsaStudent LaptopsR 6 000 00020201021
Standard BankStudent LaptopsR 3 500 0002020656
  R 301 390 000 11 895

*Key to the acronyms

  • ETDP SETA – Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority
  • FASSET – Financial and Accounting Services Sector Education and Training Authority
  • FoodBev SETA– Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry Sector Education and Training Authority
  • SASSETA – Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority
  • W&R SETA – Wholesale and Retail Skills Education and Training Authority.

According to Professor Ahmed Bawa, Chief Executive Officer at Universities SA, even though students’ debt owed to public universities (excluding NSFAS students) stands at R16,5 billion, every penny that USAf receives and channels to the universities, contributes to eroding this staggering amount. Recognising the role that education plays in graduates’ social mobility and transformation, Professor Bawa invites more entities to heed USAf’s call to step in to enable needy students to succeed and to aid the long-term sustainability of public universities. 

“In our ailing economy, the national fiscus can only do so much. We now truly look to private sector institutions to do their bit in social responsibility. We must assure future generations that our universities can sustain the knowledge project way beyond our time. In a democracy such as ours, it is antithetical to the purpose of universities that students who qualify to take up higher education programmes are prevented from doing so because they cannot afford it.”

To that end, Dr Linda Meyer, Director: Operations and Sector Support, who is leading USAf’s fundraising drive, has reiterated USAf’s commitment to continuing to engage stakeholders to maintain this momentum. 

“As mandated by our Board of Directors, USAf will continue to pursue funding opportunities to support undergraduate and postgraduate public university students from poor and missing households, in our effort to have a positive impact on thousands of students’ lives “

Nqobile Tembe is a Communication Consultant contracted to Universities South Africa.