Cape Town - The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has listened to the requests of thousands of students for their allowance to be increased as the cost of living continues to spike.
Policy changes for the 2023 academic year will result in an inflation-linked increase of 5% in student allowances, and a 7% increase in the allowance for accommodation.
According to the NSFAS, allowances were subject to annual increases determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
Student Onthatile Mathonsi started a petition, which has now gained 56 307 signatures, claiming the current monthly allowance of R1 500 was not enough for students to meet their basic needs, owing to inflation.
When he was briefing Parliament about readiness for the 2023 academic year, NSFAS chief operating officer Nthuseng Mphahlele acknowledged that students have been calling for an increase in allowances given that these have remained the same for the past three years.
“With our engagements with shareholders we could only be able to increase allowance to 5% maximum of inflation, based on the budget that is available and increase accommodation by 7% and capped at R45 000 per student per annum.
“The 2023 academic eligibility criteria requirement for university students will be implemented, as first time entering students must achieve 50%+1 of their registered course credits to be funded by NSFAS in the following academic term.
“Continuing and returning students must achieve 55% of their registered course credits to be funded by NSFAS in the following academic term,” said Mphahlele.
This year it was proposed that students pass 50% of their courses as per the course pass rate table introduced in the policy, which was contested by some students.
Mphahlele explained that this was an interim measure to allow NSFAS time to consult the sector and deduce the correct course credit progression rate to be implemented for university students in the 2023 academic year.
The financial aid scheme is projecting that it will require R3.5 billion for universities to cover the beginning of year allowances for three months, from February to April 2023.
This includes allowances for medical students that should be paid in January.
To date the NSFAS has received 747 091 applications for 2023.
MPs applauded the NSFAS plan to pay allowances directly into students’ bank accounts, however, they requested that this be monitored to ensure that students don’t misuse the funds.
The current payment method for university beneficiaries includes allowances being paid directly to institutions by the scheme and they disburse the funds to beneficiaries.
“NSFAS has appointed four fintech companies to assist with disbursement of student allowances directly into their bank accounts,” said NSFAS chief financial officer Luyanda Ndeya.
“TVET colleges have been engaged and processes to onboard students in the TVET sector are advanced.
“For the university sector three institutions, Unisa, Fort Hare and University of Limpopo were either approached by NSFAS or NSFAS approached them for a pilot,” said Ndeya.