Universities are getting creative as they scramble to make up the budget shortfall

The University of Cape Town (UCT) is appealing to parents to donate the equivalent of a 10.3% fee increase it had proposed for 2016 to its financial aid fund for needy students.

And the vice-chancellor of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, Professor Derrick Swartz, is leading a 23-member team on a four-day fundraising hike to Machu Picchu in Peru, South America. The expedition hopes to raise R4-million for students who are unable to finish their studies because of a shortage of money.

These are some of the creative ways universities are using to raise extra cash to help alleviate the funding crisis in higher education.

These initiatives come in the wake of a steady decline in government subsidies to universities and demands by students that fees are not increased next year.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the university had to “renew” efforts to raise funds from foundations, corporates, donors and alumni.

He said UCT had also introduced on new revenue-generating initiatives such as online courses.

“Some of these have made profits but we cannot be confident at this stage, in a very competitive global market, that they will deliver significant revenue, certainly not at the levels we are seeking.”

Moholola said they were already generating almost 20% of their annual “recurring” revenue from sources other than student fees or state funding.

Swartz said he and the hiking group would leave for Peru on August 27, adding that at least R1.5-million of the R4-million target set for the hike had already been raised by asking backers to pay R43 for every mile walked.
The Inca Trail is 26 miles (43km) long, according to a trekkers’ guide, incatrailperu.com.

Swartz added: “There are literally thousands of students who drop out for one or other reason, usually financial reasons. It’s such a monumental waste. We spend hundreds of millions of rands to give them opportunities and the rate of attrition is just so high.”

The University of Venda said the University of Venda Foundation and Univen Innovative Growth Company had been established to secure funding for strategic projects. The university’s spokesman,

Takalani Dzaga, said it had also been implementing “stringent austerity measures” since the beginning of the year.

Walter Sisulu University said it was negotiating with potential partners but that it was not yet ready to release details of its plans.

Professor Yunus Ballim, vice-chancellor of Sol Plaatje University in Northern Cape, said its focus presently was to find funds for supporting student fees and residence costs.

“This is because the largest proportion of our students are from homes that cannot afford to pay fees. We are concerned about 2017 when we expect that our student enrolment will grow significantly.”

He said that as a new university, it did not have the capacity or strategic intention to deliver short courses for income generation.

“While this is an important instrument at established large universities, it will represent a distraction for us as we are focused on good quality undergraduate teaching and learning,” he said.

Meanwhile, universities this week confirmed that they had not spent extra money on beefing up security in light of recent threats of protest action by students.

NMMU said, however, that it had contingency plans in place including using alternative venues in the event of exams being disrupted and providing extra online teaching support for students.

Innovative ways being used by universities to generate additional income include:

*North West University: expanding the university’s commercial activities in the fields of research and innovation;

*Cape Peninsula University of Technology: the institution is hoping to raise more income through the licensing and patenting of products that it produces and

*Tshwane University of Technology: providing short learning courses and evening classes.

TUT’s spokesperson, Willa de Ruyter said staff, alumni and other stakeholders contributed to its bursary and scholarship fund that was administered by its institutional advancement and partnerships office.

“The aim of the fund is to assist poor, academically deserving students. These efforts are additional to the university’s normal fund-raising efforts.”

She said that collaboration with industry and other agencies played a vital role in the university’s strategy to source funding to assist students.

“However, in view of the fact that the majority of TUT’s students come from poor backgrounds, there is a constant shortfall in the availability of funding to assist them

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