FEATURES Ivy League Potchefstroom. Image: Berts Bricks “It all comes together in an intense pressure point, especially when you add to that the expectation from students,” explains Craig McMurray, CEO of Respublica, one of the country’s leading developers, owners and managers of student accommodation. “With ‘Fees must fall’ we’re seeing a lot of pressure around tuition fees but I don’t think there is enough attention on the entire eco-system that supports the student. You can’t divorce academics from accommodation.” “The student housing shortage is a national crisis not only because young people are desperate and angry, and increasingly expressing it,” says Schooling. “We need to address it because accommodation plays a huge role in academic success. First year students in good on-campus accommodation have an 80% chance of passing, a percentage that is almost halved when they are not adequately housed.” Reflecting this, South Africa’s throughput at universities (the percentage of graduates versus the total university’s population) is 15% against a global average of 25%. By changing nothing other than the provision of good accommodation, our throughput could increase to 23%, Schooling advises. “There is a close link between the environment of a student and the student actually finishing with a degree,” 20 JANUARY - FEBRUARY 2017 AFFORDABLE SA HOUSING McMurray agrees. “There is no point in putting someone who has the ability to pass into the system if the odds are stacked against them because of the environment they are living in. If you want to put people through the system (and if you want the state to pay for it), we should expect a result. If we don’t provide the accommodation, we’re not going to get the result. Which means we’re funding many students who won’t come out of the system with the necessary qualifications. We need to look at the whole ecosystem of a student. If you’re funding them, we need to ensure it’s not just for the studies, but accommodation too. So they can have the best chance of succeeding.” Housing constitutes at least 40% of a student’s total cost at university so it needs to be top of mind when one looks at the total cost of tuition. “Given the restricted and strained budgets of universities, we need to find ways to do that at a low cost – but crucially and at the same time, we must not compromise quality,” says Schooling. “New student residences must be built according to core principles to ensure student success, namely: innovation, sustainability, community, flexibility, technology and specific to the African context, job creation, affordability and funding.” These are called the 21st Century Project Principles.