Stellenbosch University (SU) is intensifying its efforts to ensure that no student is denied access to higher education based on their financial struggles. The SU has therefore teamed up with the Feenix online crowdfunding platform to raise funds for the University's #Action4Inclusion initiative to pay off Matie students' debt.
Not all students requiring financial assistance receive sufficient funding for their studies and they often experience a shortfall, resulting in the accumulation of debt. Debt is increasingly becoming the biggest obstacle for many students in higher education, with some forced to abandon their studies because they are unable to pay student fees.
The #Action4Inclusion initiative, launched in 2020, was conceptualised by SU's Student Representative Council, Prof Thuli Madonsela, SU's Law Trust Chair in Social Justice, Prof Sonia Human, former Dean of SU's Faculty of Law, and Social Justice Ambassadors. The funds raised via #Action4Inclusion are used to support students who cannot register for the next academic year owing to outstanding fees, as well as graduates who cannot access their academic records upon graduation, thereby hampering their capacity to contribute to a talented workforce.
“Stellenbosch University firmly believes that no deserving student should be denied access to higher education based on their financial struggles," says Prof Wim de Villiers, SU's Rector and Vice-Chancellor.
He continues: “SU commits a substantial portion of its income – generated through state subsidies and student fees – to student bursaries each year. However, the University is experiencing increased financial strain as state subsidies for universities have progressively declined. Significant amounts of outstanding student debt further exacerbate our concerns as we cannot write off the money owed to the University because it is crucial to sustaining our operations.
“Therefore, contributions to #Action4Inclusion firstly help talented students overcome financial burdens and give them the opportunity to pursue professional careers without the burden of student debt, and secondly ensure SU's sustainability as an institution," Prof de Villiers explains.
Prof Thuli Madonsela says, “The plight of students who are overburdened by university fees debt is of great concern. Many students from under-resourced backgrounds struggle to pay their university fees and are often at risk of dropping out. Through the #Action4Inclusion campaign we seek to ensure academic inclusion of all our students by clearing their debt.
“I firmly believe that a lack of funding should not inhibit success and access to education should not be dependent on wealth. Together we can help students to earn their degrees without the burden of debt. I therefore challenge all SU alumni, members of the public, companies, and captains of industry to give a 'democracy dividend' to young people striving to get a university qualification."
Feenix was launched in June 2017 as a response to the #FeesMustFall movement that spread across campuses in South Africa in 2015 and 2016. Since its launch in 2017, over R80 million has been raised on the platform towards the student debt of more than 2 131 university students. Feenix connects students who owe university fees with funder communities to assist them to fundraise for their student debt via an online crowdfunding platform.
Those who wish to donate and ease the burden of student debt can go to https://feenix.org/campaign/78. There you may choose to support an individual student or make a donation to the overall #Action4Inclusion campaign. All funds raised are paid directly to the University.