New students must think twice before they commit to a tertiary course, as obtaining a qualification is a big financial commitment and the time and effort you have to invest to get your degree or diploma will put extra pressure on your life.
It is that time of year when some matriculants are anxiously waiting for the results of their exams and start to consider whether to further their education and get a technical or academic qualification.
South African universities have a high drop-out rate, with over half of students who apply for university failing to complete the first year, not only due to poor academic performance, but also because many students simply run out of money even with government funding for some students.
Affordability will remain a problem for many.
“Education is among the top reasons people give when applying for loans with loan provider, DirectAxis, but there are some important questions to consider before you decide to enrol for any post-matric qualification,” says Monita Zeterberg, communications manager at DirectAxis.
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Questions to ask before committing to a tertiary course
Starting a course if you cannot afford to complete it, makes it much less likely you will ever go back and get the qualification.
Zeterberg says whether you can get a loan or bursary, there are still some important questions to consider, such as:
Can you afford the university or college you want to attend?
You may have your sights set on a particular institution, but it is worth doing some research, Zeterberg says.
The average first year university fees are R62 000, although it can vary considerably depending on the university and the course you choose.
“It is sensible to research all the options available before deciding which is the most suitable. You can find a list of accredited institutions on the website of the South African Qualifications Authority and follow the Qualifications and Part Qualification link. However, remember that the most expensive may not always be the best option for you.”
What other costs must you consider apart from tuition fees?
Remember that in addition to the course fees, you will have to pay application and registration fees, as some bursaries and funders do not pay for this.
You will also have to pay for books, other course material, stationery and possibly a laptop or other device.
“Most reputable institutions will provide information on what you need, where to get it and what it will cost. If you can, also speak to past students to confirm this information and find out if you can buy second-hand books or other equipment,” Zeterberg says.
If the institution is far from home, you must also budget for food, accommodation, and possibly even data or Wi-Fi connectivity. If stay at home, you may be lucky enough not to worry about rent, food or data, but may need to pay for transport to and from campus.
Will you get value for money?
There is more to tertiary institutions than just academic life, particularly if you plan to spend three or more years of your life earning a qualification.
If you can, visit the campus beforehand to get a feel for it and check out the facilities.
Ask about student support, such as tutoring, guidance or career counselling.
Zeterberg says you will not spend all your time studying and therefore also consider what non-academic activities and facilities are provided. Find out what sports are offered and if there are other clubs and societies that interest you.
“Education can bring great rewards but registering for a tertiary qualification is a big financial decision and that is why you should think carefully about what you want to do and how the qualification will help you achieve this, before deciding on the best course and institution.”