Financial relief for South Africa's historically "black" universities and technikons is on the way. Massively increased allocations from the government's new R300 million (Pounds 95 million) Student Financial Aid Scheme, along with higher state funding for running costs and buildings, have been announced.
For the last decade many "black" universities and technikons have struggled under a debt burden - currently estimated at more than R100 million - created by growing numbers of students, most of them from poor families unable to pay their fees, inequitable allocations and real terms funding cuts.
The government insists that it will not wipe out the student debt, but most of the new student loan money will go to institutions such as the universities of the Western Cape, the North and Zululand, which have been badly hit over the years by nonpayment.
Roy Jackson, head of the Tertiary Education Fund of South Africa (Tefsa), estimates that the number of students receiving loans will nearly double this year, from around 35,000 in 1995 to between 60,000 and 70,000.
And "black" universities and technikons are to gain the most from the 23.3 per cent boost in tertiary funding this year, which will put an extra R830 million into the system and raise the amount of money spent on higher education institutions to R4.4 billion during 1996/1997.
The only exceptions will be universities in the former bantustans, which were relatively well funded during the apartheid years and face funding cuts.
Mr Jackson said "black" universities and technikons had made huge strides in setting up efficient financial aid services in the past year, enabling them to handle far larger amounts of loan money. "Some are now scoring higher on Tefsa's efficiency rankings than historically white universities with years of loan handling experience."
The University of the Western Cape will receive the biggest government funding increase among the universities with a 49.4 per cent subsidy hike, and historically black institutions will also get the lion's share of R150 million set aside for buildings.