Cape Town - The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will process up to R4.2 billion as an upfront payment to colleges and universities, prior to the finalisation of the application and registration periods.
This was revealed by Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande during a media briefing in Pretoria yesterday on the state of readiness for the 2024 academic year, following the 2023 matric results and the turmoil at NSFAS.
Nzimande said this payment was part of ensuring a smooth beginning to the 2024 academic year.
“Out of its financial reserves, NSFAS will pay a billion rand to TVET colleges and R3.2 billion to universities.”
These funds will cover registration costs as well as part of the initial funds required.
“I welcome the intervention by the board of NSFAS to ensure that it develops mechanisms to deal with all the challenges in the scheme. I will continue to monitor, very closely, developments to ascertain that the scheme is able to deliver on its mandate,” Nzimande said.
This as NSFAS board chairperson Ernest Khosa voluntarily took a 30-day leave of absence earlier this month following an investigative report by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) implicating Khosa and Nzimande in alleged tender fraud by allegedly accepting kickbacks from service providers.
The NSFAS board resolved to appoint an independent legal firm to look into the allegations levelled against Khosa and it will be expected to submit its findings within 30 days of its appointment.
NSFAS has established a whistleblower hotline monitored by the legal and forensic team on a regular basis, to further deal with instances of fraud and corruption, Nzimande said.
On outstanding disbursements from NSFAS, Nzimande called on NSFAS to speedily resolve all outstanding cases and for institutions to refrain from denying any NSFAS-funded students with outstanding payments, to register for the current cycle.
“I’ve noted with concern that the main reason for the outstanding payments was due to reconciliations that NSFAS has been engaged in with institutions predominantly because of registration data changes.
“NSFAS needs to be more strict in 2024 on how it manages the registration adjustment process and institutions ought to submit their registration information accurately and timeously upon first submission,” Nzimande said.
On NSFAS bursary applications for 2024, he said to date NSFAS has received 1.5 million applications as at January 21.
NSFAS has provisionally funded 657 703 applicants, mainly Sassa recipients, Nzimande said.
The 2024 application cycle will close on January 31. Nzimande said those who receive SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) grants are automatically funded by NSFAS. In 2024, the living allowance will be R16 500 for university students. The TVET living allowance will increase from R6 000 to R10 000.
NSFAS student debt recovery currently sits at over R40 billion, Nzimande said.
Nzimande also warned potential students about unregistered private colleges.
“I once more send my warning to unsuspecting students and parents to be aware of what we call ‘bogus’ colleges which mislead members of the public through false advertisements which illegally promise to be offering both nationally and internationally recognised qualifications.
“I expect the public to be vigilant and not fall for fake operators who are not registered and recognised by the South African qualifications system,” Nzimande said.
Students and parents have been urged to check whether an institution is registered on the department’s website (www.dhet.gov.za).