Need for wider window period for unfunded students
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Cape Town - The decision by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to open a once-off window period for eligible unfunded students to apply for the 2021 academic year has ignited calls for students in previously funded postgraduate courses to also be considered.
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande at the weekend welcomed the decision by the student financial aid board to request the database in all universities for 2021 registered students eligible for NSFAS but who were not able to apply for funding.
“All universities are required to send their exhaustive list by no later than (today) to be considered for this once-off opportunity,” said Nzimande.
The application will open for a two-week period from Wednesday to September 3.
Universities have been urged to notify students to ensure that they apply and have all the relevant supporting documents, as applications submitted after the closing date will not be considered.
Nzimande emphasised that the initiative was not intended to create any future precedent and has factored in the NSFAS available funds.
“The initiative is aimed at alleviating the financial burden of eligible and deserving students but also minimising the burden of student debt. This concession is applied only to qualifying students who are registered in the 2021 academic cycle and are without any other form of bursary and requisite financial support,” he said.
The SA Union of Students secretary, Lukhanyo Daweti, said they cautiously welcomed the board's decision because many students were struggling financially due to Covid-19.
“We urged students to make use of this opportunity. We instructed SRCs that from Monday they must work with their universities to collect the student data and submit it to the financial aid offices. We have raised the concern of PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) and PGDA (Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting) degrees being left out in the cold once again.”
Daweti said while they understand that NSFAS can not change the policy of the defunded postgraduate courses overnight, some sort of support was needed.
“NSFAS has committed to raise funds for these students and will get back to us on that.”
UCT SRC chairperson Declan Dyer said the decision was long overdue.
“We have had so many students, first years in particular, reach out to us with no funding, often owing to technical challenges during the application period. Our concern remains the PGCE and PGDA students, who having applied to NSFAS last year, were informed this year that they will not be funded. We once again call on student financial aid to ensure appropriate funding is provided,” said Dyer.
According to UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola, the university immediately started working on the required list for submission after the announcement.
“UCT always welcomes any opportunity that would assist students with their funding challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on many households financially, some after the NSFAS application period had closed.”
Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) spokesperson Lauren Kansley said: “Any opportunity to get unfunded CPUT students NSFAS funding is wholeheartedly welcomed by our institution. These students sometimes remain unfunded for reasons out of their control and we hope that the mining of this database will see many deserving students be eligible.”