A total of 1 981 students of the more than 5 300 undergraduate students who received their well-earned degrees at Stellenbosch University's (SU) December 2016 graduation week, did so thanks to some form of financial assistance - whether it be bursaries, bursary loans, or loans, University records show.
According to Ms Karen Bruns, Senior Director: Development and Alumni Relations, the Division tasked with raising funds for the University, it remains a fact that education is the best way of breaking the cycle of poverty.
"It is just gratifying to see the students' dreams of a brighter future becoming a reality because companies, foundations and individuals elected to invest their hard-earned money in higher education.
"Access to funding for higher education remains part of the current national discourse in South Africa and we need to work on securing much-need financial support for our students to make sure they graduate. That is precisely why this institution places a strong focus on attracting bursaries to help ease the financial burden," she adds.
According to Bruns, the University has been working tirelessly to help students in financial need and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. "This year, the University has administered more than R588 million in bursaries to undergraduate and postgraduate students. This amount is made up of external funds, bequests and donations and R145 million from the University's main budget. Even so, our estimated 12 500 "missing middle" students remain financially constrained and therefore unfocussed on their studies."
Says Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU: "In South Africa, a vibrant future depends on our ability to dramatically increase the number of successful graduates. We cannot accomplish this without better supporting low-income students and those underrepresented in higher education—who are the vast majority of students in our country. Many of these students lack the funds to pay the bills. Handled strategically, bursaries can create graduate success and make a better life possible for more students, and in the process, benefit families, communities and our country as a whole."
He adds: "Who are the young South Africans who ultimately benefit from a donation to Stellenbosch University? I have been inspired by the dedication of our students, like the young woman from Limpopo who carries on with her studies even though she only sees her family once a year. And the young man from Bonteheuwel who lives with his unemployed parents, but who spends four hours commuting by train because he really wants a better future. And the young woman from Randburg whose father abandoned their family years ago, but who promised her mother that she'd create a better future for her and her siblings. The least we can do is to lend them a helping hand."