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CAPE TOWN - The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has explained the free higher education rollout which was announced by the Presidency just last month. 

The announcement came at a crucial time as Zuma was succeeded by Deputy President of South Africa and now ANC President, Cyril Ramaphosa. 

The news shook some as this comes at a time where South Africa’s fiscal economy is largely unstable. 

According to NSFAS spokesperson, Kagisho Mamabolo, the money that will fund free education comes from NSFAS’s budget from Treasury. 

“We receive our budget allocation from The National Treasury. NSFAS does not make announcement of budget, as that is the role of The Treasury. Even though we were a loan scheme but the fact is our debtors were not paying back the student loans and we were able to still fund new students going forward. That essentially means that we are capable of implementing this new strategy without any hiccups”, said Mamabolo. 

However, the free education roll out, which will be implemented over 5 years, will only apply to students whose combined family income is below R350 000 per annum. 

GAP students whose family income exceeds R350 000 and is below R600 000 do not qualify for free education. Yet, these students will not incur any fee increment. 

There are also other funding opportunities available for GAP-funded students. 

“These students may be funded through programmes such as ISFAP, through other bursaries and loan programmes offered by the universities, or private financial services institutions. To qualify for this grant, university students must apply for the DHET 2018 Fee Adjustment Grant through a form obtainable from their institutions”, says Mamabolo. 

Mamabolo adds that government is currently in the process of finding ways in which students who fall within the R350 000 - R600 000 combined family income threshold, can be assisted. 

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In addition, NSFAS is working on reviewing its business model to implement these changes in the 2018 year. 

With regards to past NSFAS beneficiaries and graduates who are unable to repay their debt, Mamabolo says that NSFAS has not received any commitment from government at this stage to write off outstanding debt provided by the scheme. 

The free funding model will not only apply to deserving and underprivileged students but also to first time and existing students. 

“Everyone who is an existing NSFAS beneficiary will benefit from the free education announcement. NSFAS only funds the first qualification so beneficiaries who have already graduated do not qualify for funding”, says Mamabolo.   

NSFAS finally calls upon all students who have received a firm study offer for 2018 but have not secured funding to do so through their University’s funding office. 

“The deadline for submissions will depend on the registration period of the respective academic institutions. All the new first time entry (FTEN) students who have been allocated space but haven’t applied directly to NSFAS will be assisted. Funding for these students will be done through their academic institution’s Financial Aid Offices.  They will however have to supply the institution with mandatory documentation such as identity documentation of parent, legal guardian or spouse and proof of income or SASSA; all FTEN students are advised to bring these when presenting themselves at the Institutions of Higher Learning”, says Mamabolo. 

Those who fall under the R350 000 threshold will need to: 

• Contact their financial aid office on campus for assistance

• Provide supporting documents when applying

• Register during the institutions registration period 

• Study hard and pass to secure your continuous funding

Documents needed:

• Your South African green bar-coded or smart ID or birth certificate (preferably unabridged)

• IDs of parents and/or guardian (or death certificate where applicable)

• IDs of all people staying in your household

• Pay advice/letter of employment or pension advice (not older than three months)

• Medical certificate if you are permanently disabled

The students that haven’t applied to the Institution of Higher learning and have also not applied to NSFAS during the registration period will be assisted through the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Central Applications Clearing House (CACH) and are advised to register on this platform.

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