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Hidden costs & their impact on study options

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  • Category Advice Column, Education, Lifestyle, Money, Parenting, Study Assistance

Grade 12s should already be well into researching their study options for 2019 and should aim to beat the rush and submit their applications sooner rather than later, whether it be for a public university or private higher education institution, an expert says.

“But before you settle on a degree or institution, it is important to make sure that you considered all your options thoroughly, including those closer to home, which will allow you to avoid the hidden costs unrelated to the actual cost of the course,” says Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information and Communications Technology at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest private higher education institution.

“Of course it is exciting to think about moving to the other side of the country and starting a whole new chapter of your life outside of your familiar environment, but there are some solid reasons for opting to choose an institution close to home,” she says.

Payne says apart from the usual advice of how to apply for admission, what you should consider, and which courses you would like to do, the financial impact of studies beyond fees, and the role this should play in your decision, are rarely discussed.

She says prospective students should remember to also consider the following when determining how to structure their budget:

  • Prescribed textbooks and supplementary material.This could include art material, laptops, and field-specific equipment, to mention but a few. Students will need to budget for two semesters, each of which will contain different modules with their own resource requirements. Depending on the nature of your course, there are also costs associated with printing and copying.


  • Accommodation.Will you be applying at an institution that would require you to live in student residence, on off-campus accommodation or will you be staying at home? If you’re not going to be at home there are costs such as rent, meals, airtime and laundry that need to be budgeted for as well.


  • Travelling costs. This would not only include the daily commute to the campus from nearby student residences or off-campus accommodation, but your budget should include extra costs involved in the longer journeys to return home during the recess periods. Travelling to and from the campus would also incur expenses and this can add up quite quickly. Tickets for taxis, buses and trains or the cost of petrol for your own private vehicle should also be considered.


“There are sound financial reasons for considering studying at an institution close to your home. On top of that, the value of your support structure should not be underestimated.  South African first year dropout rates are high, and lack of support is one of the reasons,” says Payne.

“There is a huge gap between the demands placed on you at school, and what you’ll need to deal with in your first year studying. The workload is much greater, and there are also additional emotional pressures associated with this new stage of life. We therefore urge the Class of 2018 to carefully investigate all their options, and all the factors that will impact on their emotional and financial wellbeing during their first year at varsity.”

Payne says prospective students should remember that there are many options for higher education besides public universities, and that registered private institutions are subjected to exactly the same ​regulations, accreditation requirements and oversight.

“Considering a local higher education institution will almost always be more economical than one situated far away, because you then have the option of staying at home and saving costs on those extras that come with rental accommodation, plus you will have your support system around you when times get tough.  Given the challenges that first year students face it makes sense to consider delaying living independently until that hurdle is overcome.  Also remember that some institutions have more than one campus, so you could perhaps consider transferring at a later stage when you have found your feet.”


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