The #Feesmustfall movement garnered a lot of publicity in recent months. While some inroads have been made, students still have to pay for tertiary education. Private banker and professional speaker Samke Mhlongo-Ngwenya says that while securing sufficient funding may be difficult, there are options you could consider.
Funding option 1: Company scholarship
For a long time, company scholarships have been the go-to tertiary funding option for many disadvantaged South Africans, especially during the apartheid era. One of the benefits of this option is that company scholarships usually have a work-back period, which provides guaranteed employment upon the completion of your studies.
“Sadly this option has become more difficult to secure due to increased competition as there are more matriculants qualifying for university entrance,” says Mhlongo-Ngwenya. “In addition, there tend to be more scholarships available in fields such as accounting and engineering, for instance, and less in the humanities.”
Funding option 2: Take a gap year and save
A working gap year, whether in South Africa or abroad, allows you to earn some money that can be directed towards funding your tertiary education. Furthermore, additional work experience may be an added advantage when competing for job opportunities later.
The downside is that students who opt to take a gap year will be a year or two older than other graduates upon completion of their studies. However, this is becoming less of an issue for potential employers. Another restriction to consider is that it is unlikely that you can generate enough money in 12 to 24 months to fully fund a diploma or degree, but saving money while working before going to university will ease the financial burden.
Funding option 3: Take out a student loan
A student loan is a reasonably accessible funding option but it comes with the burden of debt.
“Many student loans are only repayable after the student has spent a minimum period in employment, which gives the false illusion that they are easily manageable,” says Mhlongo-Ngwenya. “Not many people realise that interest on the student loan accrues from the day in which the funds are dispersed, thus ballooning the total repayable figure relative to the initial loan amount.”
She says that the advantage of this option is that it affords many more people the opportunity to fund their tertiary education, thus improving their employment prospects.
Funding option 4: Work full time and study part time
Many students in developed economies choose to work straight after high school in order to fund their tertiary studies. This suggestion may not be easily implementable in South Africa where we are facing an estimated 27% national unemployment rate and over 50% youth unemployment rate.
However, if it is possible to secure employment that generates enough income to fund your tertiary education, there are two main benefits: You will not have a huge debt balance at the onset of your working career and you will have years of work experience that other graduates may not, thus adding to your marketability.