The University of Johannesburg has raised R31 million to help fund students considered too rich to qualify for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and too poor to afford tuition costs.

The “UJ Missing Middle Campaign”, launched on Thursday, aimed to raise at least R60 million by the end of the year.

UJ vice chancellor Ihron Rensburg said universities needed to empower the country’s next generation of leaders through academic studies which led to sought-after qualifications.

He said the #feesmustfall campaign last year had successfully highlighted the funding problems facing South African universities.

“And we are acutely aware that as a major university in the country’s economic heartland that we have a particular duty to thousands of our students who no longer qualify for government support via NSFAS, but whose families cannot afford to put them through university.”

The university had about 5 000 students classified as being part of the “missing middle”.

Tuition, residence fees, books, living allowance

The aim of the campaign was to pay for each student’s tuition for the entire year, which cost about R85 000 on average.

It would cover tuition and residence fees, books, and a living allowance.

Last month, the University of Witwatersrand’s student representative council (SRC) launched an access campaign which aimed to raise funds for students who also fell into the “missing middle”.

By February 21, the students had managed to raise R3 million towards the cause.

Meanwhile, the SRC at the University of the Free State had raised more than R1.2 million shortly after launching a similar campaign last month. Its aim was to raise R5 million by April.

In October last year, universities across the country embarked on nationwide student protests against the rising cost of tertiary education. Towards the end of that month, President Jacob Zuma held a meeting with university vice-chancellors and student leaders from different organisations at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

While the meeting was taking place, thousands of students from various universities across the province marched and gathered at the Union Buildings under the #FeesMustFall campaign. They were calling for a 0% fee increase for the 2016 academic year, for historical debt to be scrapped and for the government to make true its promise of free quality education, in the students’ lifetime.

After the meeting, Zuma made an announcement that there would be no fee increases for the 2016 academic year.

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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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