The Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande revealed that universities are owed more than 700 million US dollars in fees due between 2010 and 2020 with historically disadvantaged institutions bearing the brunt of the costs.
Universities South Africa CEO, Professor Ahmed Bawa, is urging the need for a solution.
"There is a need for a national solution to this issue. It is not a solution that will be found by the universities. It is a solution that will have to come from a partnership between government and so forth. I think one of the challenges we face is to try and ensure that this doesn't become an impediment for young people who fall outside of the national financial aid scheme. Very often they are most at risk and we need to find a solution to addressing that issue", said the academic.
According to the Minister, more than 100 000 degrees or certificates were withheld because of lack of payment over the period.
"By the way, two years ago government released 160 million towards student debt. However, the flaws to this money is that it is directed to NSFAS (national financial aid scheme) students only. We have the missing middle students who are not accommodated in clearing their student debt. Number two, this money applies to students who were registered that time. It means that those students at home who have graduated but can't get their degrees cannot work. So, we are saying should intervene more into this issue of historical debt of students", defends Nhlonipho Nxumalo, Chair of South African Union of Students Financial Aid.
Africanews correspondent in Johannesburg, Wandiswa ntengento, adds:
"South Africa's education experts say it is quite clear that a new approach to tertiary funding needs to be put forward. On the other hand, students are calling for free education in South Africa".