Cape Town - Debt owed by students to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has ballooned to R35 billion, but NSFAS administrator Dr Randall Carolissen said the debt will not affect enrolment for 2019.
Carolissen addressed the issue at the opening of the new walk-in NSFAS student centre in Wynberg, created to improve the application process for candidates.
Carolissen said a R22bn budget had been set aside for funding 2019 enrolment and the backlog with paying students stipends this year had largely been resolved.
“In the past six weeks we pumped close to R15bn fresh money into the system, which took a lot of heat out of the system. We had to make sure the administrative backlog was dealt with so that students can get their funding, and we were reasonably successful.
“Part of the job going forward now is to stabilise the systems and make sure the data has integrity so that we have a good start for 2019. Money for the next two years is already in budget. Government is serious about funding poor students,” said Carolissen.
Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Buti Manamela added that protest had subsided as more than 40000 students who did not receiving their allowances earlier this year had now been paid. Manamela said allowances for approximately 8000 candidates were still outstanding.
Despite this, Manamela said he was happy with the readiness displayed by NSFAS for 2019 admissions.
Video: Athina May/Cape Argus
“The administrator has worked hard in resolving the 2017 and 2018 backlog, in ensuring that more students get paid their allowances and that which is due to universities has been paid,” said Manamela.
“About five, six weeks ago, a lot of campuses were in distress as a result of protest from students because of the non-paid fees. The fact that we have now stabilised and lots of students are focused on their exams is pleasurable and we want to see stability spreading across.”
Manamela said the opening of the new centre to assist pupils was exciting, and he encouraged all to come to the walk-in centre and apply for funding before the closing date at the end of next month. The centre is equipped with 14 computers and scanners and accommodates 30 seated visitors, allowing applicants to apply on their own or with staff assistance.
Manamela said NSFAS would consider the creation of more such centres, as there was definitely a need for them on the ground.