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NSFAS to fund more students

NSFAS to fund more students

NSFAS board chairperson Sizwe Nxasa says the number of funded students is expected to rise to the region of 450,000


The National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has rejected more than 50,000 applicants for funding for 2017 because their academic results were too low or their household incomes too high.

However, it said on Sunday it expected to fund 10% more students — up to 450,000 — this year, helped by the additional money that was set aside in the budget in 2016.

The NSFAS update comes as universities open for the new academic year and a ministerial task team led by NSFAS chairman Sizwe Nxasana grapples with the challenge of funding “missing middle” students.

The needs of these students, from households that earn more than the NSFAS ceiling of R122,000 a year but less than R600,00 have been a major issue in the student protests.

NSFAS uses a means test to determine whether students are eligible for loans and 53,042 applicants did not meet the academic or financial requirements. Those wishing to appeal have until February 28.

The scheme has so far granted funding to 309,788 students and Nxasana said the total was expected to increase to 450,000 in 2017 from the 400,000 NSFAS had normally funded in the past.

“It is a significant increase in the absolute number of students, and the amount allocated per student is more because of the increase in the budget the government has made available” Nxasana said.

In the 2016-17 budget, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan added R10.6bn to NSFAS funding for the next three years, R8bn of which was for unfunded new and returning students and the rest for debt relief. NSFAS is owed more than R24bn by students.

In 2016, the scheme also committed to pay up to R1.3bn to cover registration fees for students who were previously funded by the scheme.

Returning university students have received the bulk of the funds made available for 2017, while new entrants into technical vocational education and training (TVET) colleges received the smallest allocation

Academically deserving students from the poorest schools as well as students who were receiving social grants were automatically funded by the scheme.

TVET colleges have experienced administrative issues, with many students not having received their results at the end of the previous academic year. This posed a challenge for the funding scheme to process applications.

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