All students who were blacklisted for owing money to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) have been taken off the credit bureaus’ records, say Higher Education officials.
The exact number of students was not available from the scheme as it is auditing its records to track students who benefited from its loans. The Higher Education Department said 69 107 students had been blacklisted since 2000.
This emerged in yesterday’s briefing before the National Council of Provinces higher education budget debate. Higher Education Deputy Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize said removing students and graduates from blacklists was important so that they could start their working lives without this burden. But those who could afford to repay study loans and did not do so would not be let off the hook.
She acknowledged that the NSFAS would have to improve its system of tracking students, which had not been done for several years.
A department official said discussions with the SA Revenue Service had begun to explore the option of tracing defaulting students, given that tax records were confidential.
The move to take NSFAS students off blacklists puts the onus on universities and universities of technology to follow suit. Further talks on this were scheduled for today.
During last month’s National Assembly budget debate, it emerged that the money available for study loans through the NSFAS would double from R2.7 billion to R5.4bn. In addition, R200 million is available to students who have graduated but who have not yet received their certificates because of outstanding debts.
Higher Education officials say about 25 000 will benefit, although an audit is under way to get an updated figure. - Marianne Merten