JOHANNESBURG – THE NATIONAL Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has announced that it has received a record number of 543 268 first-time applications, compared with 428 929 in the prior year, which reflects a growth of just more than 26 percent.
NSFAS said in a statement that it had prioritised the poor and vulnerable students and to this end, just less than 50 percent of applications had been received from social grant beneficiaries, following an extensive outreach campaign, which saw the organisation’s officials reaching out to small towns and rural areas.
NSFAS administrator Dr Randall Carolissen said the personal details and social welfare status of all applications had been validated with the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Social Development.
“This is a major improvement in NSFAS administration, as communication of funding decisions prior to the commencement of the academic year will allow students to enrol at a tertiary institution without having to pay upfront registration fees,” said Carolissen.
Carolissen dismissed media reports that NSFAS lost more than 100 000 applications as utter nonsense and misleading.
“All incomplete or poor quality applications are classified as missing documents at NSFAS. We have validated more than documents 60 000 with Department of Home Affairs and the remaining 70 000 we have contacted over the festive season.
“I expect that this will increase as we are clamping down on corruption and our forensic investigations come to completion,” said Carolissen in a brief interview with Business Report.
According to the NSFAS statement, from the total number of applications received, 69 357 applications were incomplete or might have outstanding or incorrect supporting documents. These applicants were contacted by NSFAS over the festive season and they would also be processed for funding decisions.
The list of required documents which need to accompany each application is on the NSFAS website on www.nsfas.org.za
The students’ organisation said of the 473 911 valid and fully completed applications received by the closing date, 346 364 were declared eligible for funding, 36 865 were withdrawn, 28 979 did not meet the minimum funding criteria and were being reviewed.
The remaining 61 703 applicants submitted documents of poor quality, which were subsequently validated by the Department of Home Affairs.
NSFAS also issued a cautionary notice advising applicants to be wary of scams and fake news disseminated in the social media. “NSFAS will never request login or account details as this can only be changed by individual students on their portals.
“Students are advised to maintain the confidentiality of their passwords/ login details but also to ensure that the passwords are protected. Resetting of password request is the biggest volume of enquiries by our Call Centre.”
The students’ organisation said as in prior years it had expected that a significant number of students would apply after they had registered at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.
In 2019 this category of students amounted to 160 000. NSFAS, in conjunction with the TVET sector, instituted additional administrative support to ensure rapid processing and turnaround.
Carolissen said students previously funded by NSFAS and were continuing their studies would be funded based on progression results to be received from the institutions.
He also lauded the students for using the organisation’s electronic portal. “We are encouraged that most of the applications were submitted through the electronic portal with only 15 000 applications submitted manually.
“The highest number of applications received were from KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Gauteng Province. About 80 percent of applicants have indicated that universities are their first choice of study,” said Carolissen.
He said funding decisions for the 2020 applications had been updated on the myNSFAS portal profiles and advised applicants to check and track their application status updates online. “Applicants who do not have the myNSFAS portal profiles are encouraged to register on the website in order to ensure they have sight of their funding status.”