Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has expressed the department’s readiness to implement a funding model for the ‘missing middle’ students as R3.8 billion has been set aside for the 2024 academic year.
The first phase of the new comprehensive funding model will ensure that these students who are not supported by the National Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and funding policy are able to access financial support from the government in the form of a loan to pursue their studies.
For years calls for financial aid or an income contingent system for the ‘missing middle’ students have been made due to ballooning student debt, which had accumulated at more than R700 million.
Nzimande said the funding model would be rolled out gradually with the first phase expected to fund 47%, or 31 884 of the estimated 68 446 students.
“We are now ready to implement the first phase of the Comprehensive Student Funding Model.
“This category of students are those who come from families who have a total income of more than R350 000, but not more than R600 000 per annum. This loan scheme will be administered by NSFAS which has the legal mandate to offer student loans,” said Nzimande.
He said funds had been revived for NSFAS ICT systems, including the loan system and the department had consulted with the National Treasury and other stakeholders, including student leaders, about implementation.
Nzimande said they were waiting for NSFAS to obtain board approval for the funding guidelines.
The funding criteria also includes that 70% of those funded students must be following science, technology, engineering and maths programmes.
South African Union of Students (Saus) president Yandisa Ndzoyiya said the union had been engaging with the department for a “sustainable and permanent ”solution for the ‘missing middle’ students.
Ndzoyiya said these were remarkable strides in ensuring that a solution would be in place by the beginning of this academic year.