NSFAS so slow... Free education funding hits a snag

24 April 2018 - 13:02 By Ernest Mabuza
Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor.
Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor.
Image: Alon Skuy

The funding scheme to provide free higher education for students whose parents earn below R350‚000 per annum was experiencing some teething problems‚ Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor said on Tuesday.

Pandor said all the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) processes and systems must be assessed this year‚ and that all the identified problems that had been brought to the department’s attention must be addressed.

Pandor was briefing the media on the progress made to ensure that qualifying students receive free higher education this year.

In December last year‚ former president Jacob Zuma announced that government would fully subsidise higher education for students whose parents earn below the threshold from 2018.

Pandor said there had been reports that students had submitted all the required information to qualify for bursaries but higher education institutions had not received funds.

“There are still significant challenges regarding system integration between NSFAS and the institutions. This integration process has affected the submission of registration data to the scheme‚” Pandor said.

She said the exchange of data was crucial as this would confirm to NSFAS that eligible students were registered at an institution.

“I have instructed NSFAS to urgently address the integration issues and work with the affected institutions.

“It is crucial that NSFAS finalises the 2018 funding decisions urgently to ensure that all eligible students are confirmed‚ bursary agreements are signed and students get their allowances.”

She said every single delay had a real effect on students‚ on their ability to access accommodation and food‚ books and ultimately on their ability to succeed.

“We simply cannot fail to distribute funding to students when it is available.”

Pandor said good progress had been made since the announcement in 2017 that the new bursary scheme was implemented successfully. She said in the case of TVET students‚ 458‚875 students would receive tuition bursaries.

In the case of university students‚ the new funding allocation for first-time entry students is expected to fund approximately 83‚200 of the 208‚000 spaces for new entrants at universities in 2018.

Pandor said all existing NSFAS-funded university students would receive their funding in 2018 and for the completion of their studies as grants rather than loans.