How much to save for your baby’s university years

If you are starting a family and want to make sure your little one gets a good university education, you need to start thinking about saving for the fees and other costs now. We did the sums, so you need to know what to plan for.

We all want a good education for our children, to see them learn and grow and be ready for the world. Even though it can be expensive, with a little planning and preparation you can save for university costs. You should start as soon as possible – before your baby even gets to school!

We looked at university fees today to find out how much they could be in 15 years so that you know how much you need to save.

The lowdown:

Cost of one year at university in 2020, including tuition, books and equipment: R75 000.

Estimated cost of one year at university in 15 years: +R150 000

You need to save: R500 a month for 15 years to pay for one year at university, or R1 400 a month for a full 3-year degree.

Here’s how we worked it out

University fees today

We looked at fees at four public universities (Wits, UCT, UJ, University of Pretoria). Actual fees depend on what you study, how long the course is and what modules you take within those courses. For example, some courses require field work or laboratory work and those can cost as much as R20 000 more than the ones that don’t.

We looked at average 2020 costs of a 3, 4- and 6-year degree. Our 6-year degree was medicine (MBCHB) which not all universities offer. We then increased fees each year by 6.5% to get an estimated cost in 2035. This is based on Statistics South Africa tertiary education inflation rate of 6.2% and the last five years increases at one public university of 7%.

DegreeTuition costs for 2020 for one year of studyEstimated tuition costs for 2035 for one year of studyEstimated tuition costs for the full degree for 2035
3-year degreeR52 000R125 563R376 689
4-year degreeR56 000R135 223R540 892
6-year degreeR73 000R176 276R1 057 656

Add in books, equipment and other costs of around R50 000 and one year at university in 2035 could cost over R150 000 for a 3-year degree and R200 000 for a 6-year degree.

Where do you save?

Every amount saved helps

You can save in a fixed deposit or money market fund, which will give you a decent return and keep your capital safe. You can also look at investing in something like a unit trust fund or an exchange traded fund. These investments should give you a higher rate of return than a money market fund, which means you don’t need to save as much, but the value of your savings can go up and down because they are invested in the stock market.

You can also consider an education savings plan some companies offer but be sure to check out the costs and the estimated returns after costs.

If you need advice on where to invest talk to your financial advisor.

Three things to keep in mind

  • Fees and other costs may increase at different rates – keep an eye on how university fees are changing over the years.
  • University education may look very different in 15 years – courses may be shorter, more practical, offered online, or possibly even longer. There may also be other ways to fund studies including crowdfunding, so be flexible in your plan.
  • There are many organisations and institutions offering students financial assistance from NFSAS to company bursaries and loans and student competitions. These can reduce fees and costs substantially, in some cases paying them in full.

Be prepared

Don’t be daunted by the big numbers. It’s okay to start saving small amounts and building your savings up over time. Every amount helps and the earlier you start saving the more opportunity you have for those savings to grow.


  • The more money you save, the more interest you can earn, which compounds over time.
  • If your child is planning on studying away from home, you may need to save an additional R50 000 – R150 000 a year.


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