How the Inability to Access Funding for Tertiary Education May Negatively Affect the Future of Young People Who Are Keen in Studying

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  • Feb 22, 2024

In South Africa, tertiary education serves as a gateway to economic empowerment and social mobility for young individuals aspiring to build prosperous futures. However, the inability to access funding for tertiary education poses significant challenges, hindering the academic pursuits and career prospects of many talented and ambitious youth. This essay discusses how the inability to access funding for tertiary education may negatively affect the future of young people who are keen on studying, examining its implications for academic achievement, economic opportunities, social mobility, and national development.

Access Funding for Tertiary Education

1. Academic Achievement and Access to Opportunities

Limited Enrollment Opportunities:

The absence of adequate funding options restricts access to tertiary education for a considerable portion of South Africa’s youth population. As a result, many academically gifted individuals are unable to enroll in institutions of higher learning, depriving them of the opportunity to pursue their desired fields of study and fulfill their academic potential.

Academic Performance and Dropout Rates:

Students who manage to secure enrollment but face financial constraints often struggle to maintain satisfactory academic performance due to the additional stressors associated with financial instability. The need to juggle part-time employment or engage in income-generating activities to cover educational expenses can compromise students’ ability to focus on their studies, leading to increased dropout rates and reduced completion rates.

Impact on Career Prospects:

The inability to obtain a tertiary education due to financial barriers limits young people’s career options and prospects. In a competitive job market, where higher qualifications are often prerequisites for lucrative employment opportunities, individuals without tertiary education credentials may find themselves relegated to low-paying jobs with limited prospects for advancement.

2. Economic Disadvantages and Persistent Inequality

Perpetuation of Socioeconomic Disparities:

The lack of funding for tertiary education perpetuates socioeconomic disparities by disproportionately affecting individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Without access to higher education, young people from low-income households are unable to acquire the skills and qualifications necessary to break the cycle of poverty, further entrenching inequality within society.

Reduced Earning Potential:

Tertiary education is instrumental in enhancing individuals’ earning potential and socioeconomic mobility. Without the opportunity to pursue higher education, young people are likely to face limited earning prospects throughout their lives, exacerbating poverty and hindering upward socioeconomic mobility for themselves and their families.

Impact on Entrepreneurship and Innovation:

Entrepreneurship and innovation play crucial roles in driving economic growth and addressing unemployment challenges. However, the lack of funding for tertiary education deprives aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators of the knowledge, skills, and networks necessary to establish successful ventures and contribute to economic development.

3. Social Mobility and Civic Engagement

Diminished Social Mobility:

Access to tertiary education serves as a catalyst for social mobility, enabling individuals to transcend socioeconomic barriers and achieve upward mobility. Without the means to pursue higher education, young people from marginalized communities are denied the opportunity to improve their social and economic circumstances, perpetuating intergenerational cycles of poverty and marginalization.

Undermined Civic Participation:

An educated populace is essential for fostering active civic engagement and democratic participation. However, the exclusion of large segments of the youth population from tertiary education due to financial constraints diminishes their ability to contribute meaningfully to societal development, leading to disenchantment and disengagement from civic and political processes.

Impact on Social Cohesion:

The unequal distribution of educational opportunities exacerbates social divisions and undermines social cohesion within South African society. The perception of educational institutions as inaccessible or elitist institutions further alienates marginalized communities, exacerbating social tensions and undermining efforts to build a more inclusive and cohesive society.

4. Implications for National Development

Human Capital Development:

Tertiary education plays a pivotal role in human capital development, equipping individuals with the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed to drive sustainable economic growth and development. However, the underinvestment in higher education perpetuates a skills deficit and hampers efforts to build a skilled workforce capable of meeting the demands of a rapidly evolving global economy.

Innovation and Competitiveness:

Investments in higher education are essential for fostering innovation, creativity, and technological advancement, which are critical drivers of competitiveness in the global marketplace. By limiting access to tertiary education, South Africa jeopardizes its ability to harness the full potential of its human capital and innovate solutions to pressing socio-economic challenges.

Social and Economic Costs:

The exclusion of talented and motivated young people from tertiary education exacts significant social and economic costs on society as a whole. Lost opportunities for human capital development, diminished productivity, and perpetuated inequality impede progress toward achieving inclusive growth and sustainable development goals, hindering South Africa’s prospects for long-term prosperity and stability.


In conclusion, the inability to access funding for tertiary education poses formidable barriers to the academic, economic, and social advancement of young people in South Africa. Addressing this challenge requires concerted efforts from government, civil society, and the private sector to expand access to affordable and equitable higher education opportunities, thereby unlocking the full potential of the country’s youth and fostering inclusive growth and development.

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