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Pretoria - The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will be able to help only half of the students who apply for funding this year.
This is despite a supplementary injection of R230 million to the R9 billion budget for this year.
The money was paid into the troubled fund by the Department of Higher Education on Tuesday, after students ran riot and marched at universities on Monday to protest against the failure to pay fees.
Making the announcement on Tuesday, NSFAS chief executive Msulwa Daca said they had already paid out R7.4bn of last year’s R8.3bn this year.
The money was a significant increase over this time last year.
Daca said: “This is the single biggest amount of funding NSFAS has ever made by January of any year in its history.”
Payments would be finalised by the second week of February, well ahead of the March deadline, he added.
The money from the Department of Higher Education would help to pay funds to universities and settle outstanding fees owing from the last academic year for students who applied for funding from the scheme last year but did not receive it due to money running out.
Daca said students continued to study for the whole year without funding.
“We must now pay off their student debt for last year before they can register for 2014,” he said.
Daca added that an advance payment for this year, to the value of 10 percent of their annual allocation, had also been made to all FET colleges.
“We are waiting for requests from universities for a similar advance payment, which we make at this time each year.”
Earlier, Daca admitted that the R8.3bn allocation had not been enough to keep pace with the number of students who needed assistance. He said last year’s shortfall had amounted to R2.6bn.
He said this year’s budget of more than R9.7bn for more than 430 000 students at all 25 public universities and 50 public FET colleges would be affected by the rise in tuition and other fees.
The failure to meet financial assistance demand encouraged the South African Students Congress (Sasco) this week to call for mass action, carried out nationwide on Monday, in an effort to force institutions and the NSFAS to facilitate accessibility to academic institutions.
The organisation accused the NSFAS and universities of blocking access for children of workers and the poor, and said changes, including the new no-walk-in policy and the requirement to apply online, were exclusionist.
The DA Youth also condemned the shortage of funds and said NSFAS assistance had to be expanded for all who qualified.