Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor, announced on 24 April that an additional R7.1 billion will be allocated to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
During a media briefing, Pandor said, “Additional government funding of R7.1 billion in 2018 has been allocated to fund bursaries for children of poor and working-class families entering universities and TVET colleges, with R4.5 billion set aside for qualifying university students and R2.6 billion for TVET college students. As a result the baseline allocation to NSFAS to support poor and working-class university and TVET students will increase from the R9.849bn in 2017/18 to R35.321bn in 2020/21.”
Pandor said, “The new funding allocation for first time entry university students is expected to fund approximately 40% (83 200) of the 208 000 spaces for new entrants at universities in 2018.”
Pandor said during the briefing that changes are being made to the student funding scheme. One of these changes is that the new student funding is being seen as a grant, not a loan. This means that students will not be required to pay any money back. However, there are conditions attached to this. Pandor explained, “Although first time entering students will not be expected to pay back the costs of their bursaries, they will be expected to meet certain conditions and expectations, including those relating to satisfactory academic performance.”
Pandor also said that her department is aware that some students are experiencing delays with their funding, but that they are working on solving this issue.
Rikus Delport, UP media spokesperson, said that a total of 7 342 students are being funded by NSFAS at UP this year. In 2017 and 2016, 6 611 and 6004 were funded by NSFAS respectively. In 2015, 5 418 students were funded.
Delport explained the process of being funded by NSFAS, “Once NSFAS has notified institutions of student that have been provisionally funded, the university make arrangements for these students to claim allowances for books and private accommodation while waiting for the final funding decision from NSFAS. NSFAS will issue agreement forms to approved students once they have finalised the awards. Students need to log onto the NSFAS system to accept the agreement form after which funding will be remitted to the institution. These payments are made in tranches and will only reflect on a student’s account once the institution has received the funds from NSFAS.”
Akhona Mdunge,UP SRC member for Study Finance commented on the delays that some students are facing with NSFAS funding. Mdunge said, “It is an unfortunate situation that thousands of students have not yet received confirmation of funding. Certain structures within the university believe that the situation could potentially become a crisis. This process by NSFAS must be expedited to avoid the situation that has currently erupted at Nelson Mandela University spilling over to other higher learning institutions. My office is in constant contact with NSFAS consultants and the relevant management structures within the university to ensure that minimal possible hindrances are experienced by UP students.”
Mdunge added that the SRC welcomes the additional funding to NSFAS and encouraged any student who is facing problems to approach the SRC for assistance.
Illustration: Thinumzi Dubeni