Rutendo Ngara/Mthabisi Tshuma, Chronicle Reporters
SOME State universities have increased tuition fees by more than 1 000 percent without Government approval, while others have postponed block release programmes.
The institutions yesterday said the increases mainly affected visiting or block release students as their fees were not controlled by the Government.
The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation Science and Technology Development, Professor Amon Murwira yesterday said the increases were illegal as the Government had not approved them.
Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) director of information Mr Anderson Chipatiso yesterday confirmed the institution had increased tuition fees for block release students from $1 300 to between $9 600 and $15 000 depending on the degree level.
He said the prevailing economic challenges necessitated the adjustment.
“Indeed fees for block release programmes were increased. Refer to www.gzu.ac.zw for more details. The increase is in tandem with the cost of running the programmes. The University has of late been subsidising the cost of running the programmes and that has proved unsustainable,” said Mr Chipatiso.
He said the fees for block release and cohort programmes are not governed by the Government hence the institution has power to review them at any time. The fee increase, he added, is meant to facilitate payment of allowances for lecturers and provide for essential services that enable learners to fully conduct their school work.
“Block release and cohort programmes are full fee-paying programmes classified under self -funding programmes for universities, hence they are at liberty to charge fees that can enable them to provide the service without subsidies.
“It is from these fees that the university can pay lecturers’ allowances (hourly wages), hire venues for teaching and learning and provide fuel to power generators as well pay for Wi-Fi and other services for the block release programmes,” he said.
A GZU student who spoke on condition of anonymity said as a civil servant he will be forced to defer or drop out because the fees are not affordable.
“Our fees last semester was $1 300 and I was shocked when I opened my portal last week and they are saying I have to pay $9 600 for a block that starts in three days. Where can I get that amount of money. They told us that you will not be registered or attend lectures if you have not paid 75 percent of the fees,” he said.
Midlands State University (MSU) has postponed all its block, visiting and weekend classes which were expected to commence next week.
In response to emailed questions, MSU Information and Public Relations Acting Director Mr Reginald Nyango dismissed social media claims that the classes have been cancelled for the year 2020.
“There has been no cancellation of the block release, visiting school and weekend classes. Instead, the correct position is that while some of the classes were meant to commence in January, they have been postponed to February 2020. It is simply a change in the dates.
“The postponement was necessary to give all our stakeholders ample time to prepare for the commencement of the new academic year,” said Mr Nyango.
He said full-time students are not affected in any way since their semester commences next month.
On fees hike for the postponed classes or the full time students, Mr Nyango did not respond to emailed questions.
Some block release students alleged the university was waiting to see how the Government would deal with those who have increased fees, before taking a position.
A source at the University of Zimbabwe said the fees had not changed yet.
Efforts to get a comment from the National University of Science and Technology, Lupane State University and Chinhoyi University of Technology were fruitless as phones were not being answered.
Visiting students at the universities were in panic mode as most are set to begin lessons next week but they still did not know the fees structure.
They said they had been advised that for those who paid fees in advance, the money will be used to offset increases and they may have to top up.
Prof Murwira said: “Every State university is governed by Government and there are no fee increments that were approved for all State universities as we speak. We have not yet approved increments at all our tertiary institutions. I heard a rumour that GZU has increased but we have not yet approved that as we are working on it. Yes, the fees will be adjusted. Our adjustments will be based on processes we follow and people will be informed.”
He said $15 000 in fees will be unbearable for most students.
“Even after the review, the fees are not likely to exceed $5 000. Government will not approve exorbitant hikes,” he said.- @missngara/@mthabisi_mthire.