By A Correspondent- State universities could end up charging up to $15 000 a semester once all ancillary fees, accommodation and meals have been factored in.
The Government set maximum tuition fees between $3 500 and $5 000 per semester for universities, depending on course, while tuition at colleges was set at between $500 and $1 500. Ancillary fees, accommodation and meals were left to the institutions to determine.
The ancillary charges include registration, examination, maintenance, medical aid, technology, students union, sports levy, laboratory, travel, student development, fieldwork and graduation fees and can total $3 660.
Investigations have shown that universities are trying to go back to their proposed high charges by hiking ancillary and accommodation fees.
At the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), where tuition for a medical student was set at $4 995, the total including ancillary fees is $8 655.
Students staying on campus will also have to pay accommodation fees, which has not been invoiced but is said to be between $8 000 and $10 000.
Those from outside Harare who opt to rent rooms in Mount Pleasant and Vainona near campus, will probably have to pay their landlords anything between $1 200 and $1 800, often demanded in foreign currency.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira has, however, encouraged parents and guardians to take advantage of the student loan scheme, saying Government had no jurisdiction over ancillary fees. “People should take loans because they are meant to be used,” he said.
“The loan scheme is meant to be used because we can see that our fees are still lower than that of high schools. There is no way a student can go to a university without chemicals, equipment and stuff meant for Parents should capitalise on the loan scheme and they have to understand that this is not a cash economy hence we encourage them to take loans.
“We want our students to have access to education and we have agreed that students on attachment should pay 60 percent of the tuition fees. They should access these loans because they are guaranteed by the Government.”
Parents and guardians said these were private loans which they were expected to immediately start paying back.
“The repayment is set to commence the next month after the loan application is approved. So a student with no one to guarantee the ability to pay won’t get the loan,” a disgruntled parent said.
“In the case of the UZ, the loan applications are processed via the University of Zimbabwe Cadetship Office, but the ultimate decision-maker is CBZ (Bank), and repayment is by debiting a salary at not more than 40 percent of applicant’s net income.
“At the end of the day the parent is left with nothing. Government is forgetting that we already have other loans and stop orders.”
Responding to the high cost of ancillary fees, Prof Murwira said the Government was assisting university operations by giving each university $6 million for operational costs such as water and electricity.
“We are now helping universities on their operations and each university has received $6 million for operational costs.
This was last done in 2009, but we have restarted it; supporting universities budget wise.
“We also encouraged universities to increase agricultural programmes to ensure that their food is coming from their farms. Our main aim is never to have students outside the class, but to make sure that they are in class. Levies are normally a function of how the economy functions,” he said.
UZ director of information and public relations Mr Daniel Chihombori said the final accommodation fees will be given on February 24 to allow parents and guardians time to look for the money. Last semester, UZ students paid $1 200 as accommodation fees.
Harare Institute of Technology communications officer Mr Jefry Makumbe said the institution was reviewing accommodation fees and these would be published as soon as they are approved.
At Harare Polytechnic, students paid $1 540 for accommodation but the figure is reportedly under review.
Bindura University of Science Education director of public relations Mr James Gutura said they proposed their fee structure last week and it is yet to be approved by the parent ministry.
Mutare Polytechnic College students staying on campus will have to fork out $6 990.
At Kwekwe and Gweru Polytechnic colleges, students said they paid $3 500 for food and $730 for accommodation over and above $1 300 for tuition. At Masvingo Polytechnic, resident students are paying $3 500 per semester for accommodation but sources said the figure would be reviewed soon, while at Masvingo Teachers’ College resident students are paying $3 500.
A source at Bondolfi Teachers’ College said many students were going for off-campus accommodation because of the $4 000 being charged by the institution per semester.
Great Zimbabwe University director of information Mr Anderson Chipatiso said campus accommodation fees for the forthcoming semester will be decided after consultation with the institution’s students representative body.
At Midlands State University, authorities said they were yet to come up with a food and accommodation fee structure with the new semester expected to start mid-February.
However, students at the two institutions said they were told to budget for between $8 000 and $10 000.