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The South African Student Services Agency is a unique network with a strong identity built around values of equal opportunity and social assistance in support of college and university students in South Africa.The SASSA off-campus services reach out to the large majority of students who live at home or in private accommodation in villages, townships, towns and cities. Noting that only 20 percent of students live on campus residences, SASSA serves a critical role to support commuter students with a suite of student life and support services. SASSA services and programs is also be available to residential students.

SASSA is strategically located in every local municipality, metropolitan areas and traditional authorities where there is a college and university campus. The SASSA service footprints will be found within the proximity of every campus in villages, townships, towns and cities throughout South Africa in order to provide a comprehensive suite of support services to college and university students.

The SASSA programs and services are designed to respond on the needs of students in urban and rural environments across the country to improve on the student experience. The SASSA Advice Centres will be roll-out to support 2 million plus students in every village, township, town and city in South Africa.

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The South African Student Services Agency (SASSA) believes that:

Access to education is a universal right
Education is an essential element in the fight against poverty and inequality
Education gives the youth an opportunity for self-development in order to earn a living in the future
Through education the youth obtain knowledge and skills that help them to improve their quality of life
Successful completion of a post-secondary qualification contributes to a higher rate of youth employability
Education also contributes to the economic growth and development of a country

According to the 2014 statistics, the South African post-secondary sector is currently providing access to a total population of 2 155 712 at the various centres, colleges and universities as per the breakdown below:

new-table (1)

In comparison with other developed countries in which the graduation or completion rates are above 70% on average, South Africa has a graduation or completion rate of less than 20% of students who enrol at colleges and universities.
One of the factors that contribute to low success rates of students is the lack of adequate student support services both on and off-campus towards the improvement of the student learning experience – both in and outside the classroom environment.

Most of the colleges and universities in South Africa provide campus-based student services and programs which are accessible and offered to students mainly within the campus environment. This arrangement of providing campus-based services and programs is mostly convenient for students living on campus residences, often to the exclusion of the majority of commuter students who live off-campus, either at home or in rented private accommodation without any provision of student services or amenities that supports their academic or student life.

Colleges and universities in South Africa can only provide accommodation for 20% of the total student population. This means that 80% of the student commutes daily from home or rented private accommodation. Statistics indicates that students who live on campus perform better academically than commuter students. This phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that resident students have an easier access to student services and programs that support their academic and student life, resulting in their better academic performance than commuter students.

On the other hand, commuter students are often at a disadvantage by living in private accommodation off campus, without the appropriate student services and programs that supports their academic and student life. The challenges of having to commute daily to and from campus and other social factors – such as food security, safety and security – adversely affect the academic performance of most commuter students.

In 2013, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) reported a graduate rate of 15% based on data collected in 2011/2012 on public universities, public and private Technical Vocational and Educational Training (TVET) colleges in South Africa. The South African Association for Institutional Research (SAAIR) is of the view that there is a need to invest in student support services, especially for commuter students, in order to improve the graduate rates in South Africa.

Given the fact that most students are commuter students who live at home or in rented private accommodation off-campus, there is a need for the provision of student services interventions outside the traditional college or university setting. The establishment of the South African Student Services Agency seeks to close the gap of the absence of a coordinated function towards the provision of a “Student Affairs” or student services support within the realm of a metropolitan environment.