File picture: Henk Kruger/ANA

In December last year, former President Jacob Zuma announced fee-free higher education and training for students from families whose income is less than R350 000 a year. An amount of R57 billion has been allocated to fund the system over the medium term. This includes a subsidy to universities to fund a zero-increase in fees this year for students from families with a household income of between R350 000 and R600 000.

According to the 2018 Budget Review, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will provide bursaries for undergraduate university and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) college students from homes with a household income of below R350 000. The bursary will cover the full cost of study, which includes tuition, study material, and subsidised meals and accommodation and/or a travel allowance. This year, the bursary will cover students only in their first year of study. Next year, the scheme will cover first- and second-year students.

The conditions attached to the bursary have been developed by the Department of Higher Education and Training. Returning university students on NSFAS loans (those from homes with an income of under R122 000 a year) who are in their second, third or fourth year of study this year will have their loans converted into bursaries under the same conditions as when they first received financial support. This does not apply to TVET students currently on NSFAS, because they have always received bursaries, not loans.