Consider all the costs before committing to a tertiary course

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It’s that time of year when some matriculants are anxiously awaiting the results of their exams and start to consider whether to further their education and get a technical or academic qualification.

Getting a qualification is a big commitment, both financially and the time and effort you’ll need to invest to get your degree or diploma.

According to a Careers Portal story on the high drop-out rates at South African universities, over half of the students who apply for university do not complete the first year. This high drop-out rate is not only due to poor academic performance but also because many students run out of money.

Education is amongst the top reasons people give when applying for loans with specialist loan provider, DirectAxis.

Monita Zeterberg, communications manager at DirectAxis, says there are some important questions to consider before you decide to enrol for any post-matric qualification.

Unfortunately, many of these are financial and even with government funding for some students, affordability will remain a problem for many.

Starting a course if you can’t afford to complete it, makes it much less likely you’ll ever go back and get the qualification.

Whether you’re able to obtain a loan or bursary, there are still some important questions to consider. These include:

Can you afford the university or college you want to attend?

You may have your sights set on a particular institution, but it’s worth doing some research. According to the BusinessTech website, first year university fees are on average R62 000, but this can vary considerably depending on the university and the course.

It’s sensible to research all the options that are 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. Bear in mind that the most expensive may not always be the best option for you.

Other than tuition fees, what other costs do you need to consider?

Remember that in addition to the course fees you’ll have to pay application and registration fees. Some bursaries and funders do not pay these costs.

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’ll require, where to get it and what it will cost. If you can, it’s also worth speaking to past students to confirm this information and find out if you can buy second-hand books or other equipment you’ll need.

If the institution is far from home you’ll have to budget for food, accommodation and possibly even data or wifi connectivity. If you’re staying at home, you may be lucky enough to not have to worry about rent, food or data, but may need to pay for transport to and from campus.

Are you getting value for money?

There’s more to tertiary institutions than just academic life, particularly if you’re planning 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 to check out the facilities.

Ask about student support such as tutoring, guidance or career counselling.

You won’t spend all your time studying, so 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 commitment,” says Monita. “That’s 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.”

George Herald