Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

NSFAS students waiting for Blade Nzimande on payment holiday

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published May 21, 2020

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Johannesburg - The National Student Finance Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is waiting for guidance from Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande on whether there should be a payment holiday to students repaying their loans.

This happens as the student fund estimates the cost of tuition and allowances for students at almost R10 billion if the academic year is extended by three months due to Covid-19 pandemic.

NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen revealed this on Wednesday night in written responses to written questions to MPs serving on the higher education portfolio committee.

In his written response, Carollisen said they have sought direction from Nzimande in concurrence with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on the possibility of extending a payment holiday in cases where that was specifically needed and motivated as such to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. 

"If any debtor is in financial distress as a result of Covid-19, that debtor needs to provide proof of this and this will be evaluated on a case by case basis," Carolissen said.

He, however, said in the absence of the directive from Nzimande, they have adopted an approach in which NSFAS continued to recover where loan beneficiaries were willing to make repayments. 

"It is also important to note that general NSFAS repayments are relatively lower than a typical bank repayment and therefore some debtors continue paying if they are still able to do so," Carolissen added. 

He also told MPs that Covid-19 pandemic has already negatively affected the loan repayments. 

"The recoveries from previous NSFAS loan beneficiaries seem to have been negatively  affected. This was already experienced before the pandemic impact."

In his written response, Carolissen said the loan recovery was R46.7million two months ago, down from R66.1m collected in March 2019.

A total of R34.4m was collected in April compared to R47.1m during the same period last year.

"While recoveries for the month of March 2020 have remained constant at the monthly average, this has decreased significantly when compared year on year.

"Even though we have not seen a noticeable decrease in loan recoveries, we expect to see this in the coming months as to the impact of the pandemic increases," Carolissen said.

Meanwhile, NSFAS has estimated at nearly R10 billion the cost of student tuition and allowances should the academic year be extended by three months due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Carolissen put the amount at R7.5bn for universities and R2.4bn for TVET colleges. 

"This assumes NSFAS will continue to pay tuition and allowances for the extended period.

"NSFAS is in the process of quantifying the cost of extending the 2020 academic by an additional three months," he said.

"Based on current registration data received from universities and TVET colleges, the estimated cost is R9.9 billion," he said.

Political Bureau

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