NSFAS says it will be able to deal with record number of applications

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Training Dr Blade Nzimande. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Training Dr Blade Nzimande. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 2, 2023


Pretoria - Despite receiving a record number of applications for the 2023 academic year, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is confident that it will be able to provide funding to students from working class and poor backgrounds.

This year, thanks to the extended application period of four months, the NSFAS announced that it had received more than 1.6 million applications.

Despite this large number, board chairperson Ernest Khoza, said the scheme was up to the task and had already implemented a number of mechanisms to enable the full provision of its mandate because, for the first time, they had “budget certainty”, unlike in previous years.

Khoza said the scheme was already reviewing all processes and the overall governance and management design to ensure the full execution of their mandate.

He said they had also introduced a new performance management and accountability framework to establish a high-performance culture within the organisation.

For the current academic year, Khoza said the government had allocated R38.6 billion for universities and R8.9bn for TVET colleges, which would be disbursed in four crunch payments in April, June, August and October.

From the number of applications received, 613 000 had already been provisionally approved and funded, with 338  000 being continuing students while 275  589 were new applicants.

In breaking down the applications, Khoza said 210 679 applications were being assessed for financial eligibility, where funding was verified against the threshold through the South African Revenue Services.

A total of 273 746 applicants were awaiting evaluation and while Sassa beneficiaries’ decisions had been made, non-Sassa students had to provide documentation, he said.

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Training Dr Blade Nzimande said that, in the current financial year, the scheme’s budget was standing at R47.6bn, funding about 900 000 beneficiaries.

This, he said, was something that had to be taken note of, considering that NSFAS had projected a 7% increase in the number of students qualifying for bursaries compared to the previous year.

He said more than 60% of undergraduate students received support from NSFAS and well over 90% of students at TVET colleges were NSFAS beneficiaries.

“We will continue to defend the important role of NSFAS in expanding access for the dependants of the working class and the poor in the post-schooling sector.”

Furthermore, Nzimande said this year that there was an inflated increase of 5% on all student allowances other than the living allowance affected for all institutions.

The minister said the decision regarding the final allowances was arrived at following extensive consultations with key stakeholders and role players.

For instance, Nzimande said university-managed and catered-for students were to receive a learning material allowance of R5 460 and an accommodation allowance capped at R61 500 per annum.

Students using university-managed self-catering accommodation would also receive the learning material allowance, with a living allowance of R16 500 and an accommodation allowance capped at R45 000.

In fact, he detailed that as compared to the previous academic year, the living allowance for students would increase by R1 650 across the board, which came up to about a 10% increase.

“This increase is above inflation, as it is taking into account that for the past three years there has been no increase for students.”

Students living with relatives would also receive a learning material allowance as well as a living allowance of R16 500 per annum.

For TVET college students residing in their own catered residences, their allowance has been set at R54 045 a year, while those living in residences managed, owned and leased by TVET colleges in self-catered accommodation are to receive a living allowance of R6 000, R3 045 for personal care and the maximum for a living allowance capped at R45 000.

TVET students in private accommodation will also receive the same allowances.

Similarly, students living less than 10km from their colleges are due to receive a living allowance, personal care allowance and for the first time ever, a travel allowance of R7 718.

Nzimande said these allowances were in line with the scheme’s eligibility criteria and conditions for financial aid.

“While we acknowledge that limited infrastructure, including classes, residences, and equipment, still prevent the full expansion of the system’s total growth requirements, our institutions must continue to prioritise access policies, foregrounding learners from disadvantaged backgrounds to ensure that opportunities are not denied on the basis of their economic and social circumstances.

“It is not an option for our post-school education and training system to remain the preserve of only those who can afford to pay. In a deeply unequal society like that of South Africa, something significant needed to be done,” Nzimande said.

Pretoria News