Higher Education, Science, and Innovation Minister, Blade Nzimande, urged colleges and universities not to deny National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funded students with outstanding payments to register for the current academic year.
During a recent update on the state of readiness for higher learning institutions, on the heels of the release of the 2023 matric results, Nzimande outlined measures to ensure a smooth start to the 2024 academic year.
Among them, he announced that NSFAS would process up to R4.2 billion as an upfront payment to all government colleges and universities before the finalisation of applications and registrations.
Out of the financial reserves, the scheme plans to allocate R1 billion to colleges and R3.2 billion to universities. This move aims to expedite the registration process for students relying on financial aid.
Nzimande acknowledged that the scheme faced challenges with outstanding allowances, citing a thorough data analysis provided by institutions to finalise payments for the 2023 academic year. He called on NSFAS and institutions to collaborate and swiftly resolve these outstanding payments.
“The reconciliation between NSFAS and higher learning institutions, mainly due to registration data changes, has resulted in outstanding payments. In 2024, NSFAS needs to be strict in its management, adjusting registration processes, and institutions must submit registration information on time, with a deadline of March 31,” Nzimande said.
As of January 21, NSFAS has received 1.5 million bursary applications.
Minister Nzimande clarified that the scheme has already provisionally funded over 657,000 applicants, primarily South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) beneficiaries.
Addressing concerns about funding, Nzimande stated, “This thing that we are not funding, it is not true.”
He anticipated additional applications before the January 31 deadline for the 2024 application cycle.
Applicants are required to submit a consent form to verify information from third parties, such as Sassa and the South African Revenue Service (Sars). This information is crucial to verifying the employment status and income level of the applicant's parents.
“It is mandatory for applicants to download and upload a completed consent form on the NSFAS website, the NSFAS portal, or its mobile application. Non-submission of the complete, accurate, and duly signed NSFAS form would disqualify a student from NSFAS funding,” Nzimande emphasised.
However, Sassa beneficiaries approved for funding are exempt from submitting these forms, as financial checks on the parents of the applicants are not conducted in these cases. Nzimande concluded the briefing by urging all stakeholders to work collaboratively to ensure a successful start to the 2024 academic year.