The need for affordable student accommodation is greater now than ever before, especially after the announcement of free tertiary education.
Funding for education is increasing. The government will finance R57 billion for the free education of an estimated 1.1 million students from low-income households over the next three years. Significantly more education finance will also be allocated to students by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) as free education is gradually phased in. It is set to increase a massive 51.6% a year, from R10.1 billion in 2017 to R35.3 billion in 2020/21.
A boost in funding means a boost in student numbers. Undergraduate students supported by this financial aid scheme could grow from 230 000 now to over 1.12 million by 2019 while technical and vocational students could grow from 230 000 to 1.14 million.
This is in addition to an already growing number of students. The social change in our country including gradual population growth, an expanding middle class and greater urbanisation over the past two decades has driven an increasing trend in student enrollment in higher education institutions.
Currently there is not enough beds for students and because of the shortage, many students are forced to stay in accommodation which is inadequate. The Heher Commission of Enquiry, 2017, revealed that a report on the state of student accommodation at contact universities found that much of it did not even meet basic health and safety requirements. Only 20% of students can be accommodated in official student residences, with fewer than 108 000 beds for some 535 000 students.
For students of technical and vocational education and training colleges (TVET), accommodation is essentially non-existent. These students mostly come from rural areas, and travel hundreds of kilometres to their nearest college. The lack of information the commission could find about lodging for these students is in itself a sign that there is little formal accommodation. A survey of 50 public colleges revealed that 10 250 beds are available for 710 000 registered students – a mere 1.4% or 1 in 70 students. The demand for accommodation from these students is enormous.