Higher learning institutions, NSFAS at loggerheads

NSFAS and tertiary institutions pointed fingers at each other over delayed April disbursements.

NSFAS and tertiary institutions pointed fingers at each other over delayed April disbursements.

Published Apr 10, 2024


As the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and tertiary institutions pointed fingers at each other over delayed April disbursements, student leaders have given them until Friday to ensure all students receive allowances.

Students from some TVET colleges and universities across the country have held demonstrations since last week over the allowances as the delays resulted in some facing eviction threats.

Academic activities had to be suspended at the University of Limpopo on Wednesday.

South African Union of Students (Saus) president Yandisa Ndzoyiya said a large number of students have been affected.

“Thousands of students from various institutions have not received their allowances, ranging from living allowances to accommodation allowances.

“We have also, along with all students across the country, rejected the distribution of allowances by these service providers who not only had been found to have been illegally appointed but further catapulted the sector into chaos last year when they consistently failed to pay student allowances on time.

“We are calling on the department to immediately ensure the following, lest they set up the sector for a total state of ungovernability, that (by) April 12 all types of allowances are paid to all students.

“We are further calling on the department to take the nation into its confidence as it pertains to the process of the termination of these illegal service providers and subsequently a viable alternative,” said Ndzoyiya.

Universities had temporarily taken over the responsibility of facilitating the payment of the allowances for February and March.

NSFAS said this was due to challenges experienced at the beginning of the academic year which led to delays in receiving registration data from the institutions.

As of April 1, fin-tech companies eZaga Holdings, Tenet Technology, Noracco Corporation and Coinvest Africa resumed administration services as they are still contracted with NSFAS.

In a statement on Tuesday, after service providers like eZaga distanced themselves from issues over payments and blamed NSFAS, the entity shifted blame to the institutions claiming some failed to submit registration data.

It said the monthly payment date for TVET college allowances was the 25th of every month and the 30th for universities.

“NSFAS has initiated the registration upload period for institutions to submit the registration data for the 2024 academic year.

“Upon confirmation of funding and student registration for the funded/approved qualification, institutions are strongly encouraged to promptly submit their outstanding registration data for the 2024 academic year to NSFAS.

“This submission is crucial for us to process payments for tuition and allowances. Institutions and the students are reminded that all subsequent disbursements will be based solely on the registration data received and processed successfully,” it said.

According to NSFAS, Stellenbosch University and UWC were among 12 universities that allegedly submitted the registration data on March 19 after the payment file generation which did not form part of the April payment file.

SU spokesperson Martin Viljoen said it noted NSFAS’ remarks that registration data was not received “at the time of generating the payment file”.

However, it should be noted that the university was requested by the entity to upload registration data before March 20 to make it for the April payment run.

“The university currently has a total of 4 892 funded students, registration data was uploaded for 1 854 students for whom living arrangements were available. Further registration uploads are currently pending, awaiting feedback from NSFAS regarding the categorisation for accommodation.

“A proposal was submitted to increase this cap and address how the current data that has already been submitted can be mitigated if the accommodation amount is increased.

“The university hopes to receive this feedback before April 15 before the next payment run takes place.

Additional registration data will be submitted this week for students who have confirmed their living arrangements would not be affected by the Accommodation Cap,” said Viljoen.

UWC spokesperson Gasant Abarder said where necessary the university has been paying allowances as an interim measure to ensure that students are able to focus on their academic programme.

“(It) should be noted that the university submitted the registration data before the March 31 deadline set by NSFAS. The response from NSFAS was received on March 27.

The Financial Aid Office immediately communicated with students to submit the required documentation before allowances are disbursed to qualifying students,” he said.

Cape Times