The South African Revenue Service (Sars) must provide information on the income of parents who apply for government funding for their children’s university fees, rather than relying on families’ estimates of affordability.

This was one suggestion put to the University of the Witwatersrand’s eight-member panel tasked with collecting proposals for submission to the presidential commission of inquiry into higher education funding.

Currently only students whose annual family income is below R122 000 are eligible for financial support from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Another suggestion, in which Sars “could be more fruitfully employed” in various aspects of the higher education funding system, is to levy an additional tax on graduates once their income has exceeded a specific amount.

This is similar to a system in the United Kingdom which requires students to pay back 9% of their income if it is above R300 000 a year. “Such a system, linked to Sars, would have the additional advantage of ensuring compliance in the repayment of loans by those who can afford such repayments.”

Another proposal mooted was a “hybrid” model in which NSFAS fully funds a wide pool of students in the first year of study, followed by a private sector and company support scheme from the second year onwards.

“This proposal acknowledged that removing funding impediments in the first year provided students with the greatest chance of succeeding in bridging the gap between high school and tertiary education and that first-year success was a far greater indication of graduation potential than the matric results.”

As a result, companies would receive a better “return on investment”, according to the Wits submission. “The emphasis [is] on completion because the proposal also includes a 100% ‘payback’ for those students who graduate.”

Among several other suggestions in the university’s submission are the tax rebate access (Trax) and special purpose entity (SPE) proposals.

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