BANKSETA Funding To The Rescue: R12.6 Million Gets Accounting Students Into The Black
Financially vulnerable students in the department of accounting at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) can breathe a little easier this year, thanks to a recently signed grant agreement with Bankseta.
Aimed at previously disadvantaged students in the B.Com Financial Accounting stream, the R12.6 million agreement will fund the studies of 150 students this year.
This is the second year the Department of Accounting has successfully applied for BankSETA funding.
The 2016 funding was split between BCom Financial Accounting and BCom Accounting students. This year, the department is concentrating on Financial Accounting - as those students in the latter stream already have access to a variety of scholarships.
“There are various funders interested in funding the B.Com Accounting stream because they know where it leads: to becoming a Chartered Accountant,” Arendse explains. “That’s an important career path, but it’s a known degree and a known scarce skill, and that’s something that’s easy to plan for.”
The B.Com Financial Accounting stream is a little different.
“This is more for the people out there who will become entrepreneurs, do accounting in the communities, work with SMMEs,” Arendse explains. This is particularly important in a country like South Africa, where unemployment rates are high and small businesses need all the help they can get.
The three-year B.Com Financial Accounting degree launched at UWC in 2013, and now that it has gone through a full rotation of students and produced its first graduates, Arendse says their focus has shifted from growing numbers to funding.
“Students who don’t qualify for the CA Stream often think there’s nothing else they can do, so we created this degree for that opportunity and for growth within the accounting sphere,” Arendse says. “They could still become an accountant, still belong to a professional body, it’s just going a different route.”
Paying It Forward: Funding The Future
The bursaries cover 100% of the students’ tuition, meals, prescribed text books and accommodation fees on or off campus - one of the only departments at the University that actually has their vulnerable students funded so comprehensively.
Bankseta’s criteria are straightforward: at least 85% of the bursary recipients must be black and at least 54% must be female. Students, in turn, must maintain a 60% average to hold onto the bursary.
Of course, funding remains a major concern for many students, especially those who fall through the cracks. Arendse points out that some students cannot maintain the 60% average because of a variety of factors, some of which can be mitigated through soft skills training (like teaching students effective study methods).
The various projects funded by Bankseta suggested the grant model be transformed from a one-year into a three-year funding model - a suggestion that would not only create stability for the students and the programme, but could also lead to meaningful research opportunities.
“Among other things, we’re hoping to research how many students are actually holding down jobs and studying full-time,” says Arendse. “And we’re hoping to discover which interventions prove most successful in helping students complete their studies.”
Funding, as students know all too well, is a constant struggle. The UWC accounting department took some time to rethink how they could help their students.
“We wanted to improve the throughput rate and we didn’t want funding to be one of the reasons students couldn’t graduate,” Arendse notes. “We have students with a great deal of potential, and who can go on to make a real difference in their communities and to the economy - and we want to give them the chance to do that.”