Student failure in tertiary education costs taxpayers and donors large sums each year. The cost of quality can be substantial, but it can also be a source of significant savings. This study attempts to provide a framework in terms of which these costs can be quantified through the application of the principles of quality costing in tertiary education. An emphasis on quality increases profitability by increasing student throughput and by decreasing the cost of the provision of services. Significant savings are possible if the educational system could achieve greater success by focusing on adding value to those students that are more likely to succeed. If quality costing is made visible in the South African tertiary education system, it could have a profound impact on the products (students) that are delivered to society.