Student funder NSFAS sees a surge in applications for subsidies
About 80% of applicants indicate universities are first choice for studies
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has received a sharp rise in first- time applications, with eight out of every 10 would-be students wanting to study at a university.
Just under 50% of applications have been received from social-grant beneficiaries.
The high number of students being funded by government is also evident at school level. Of the more than 790,000 matriculants awaiting their results this week, 596,720 received social grants, according to the social development department statement issued this week.
In its statement, the NSFAS cited an extensive outreach campaign, which saw its officials reaching out to applicants in small towns and rural areas, as contributing to the increased number of applications it received for the 2020 academic year.
NSFAS said it had received a record number of 543,268 first-time applications (previous year 428,929) by the closing date.
"The personal details and social welfare status of all applications have been validated with the departments of home affairs and social development. This is a major improvement in NSFAS administration as communication of a funding decision prior to the commencement of the academic year will allow students to enrol at tertiary institutions without having to pay upfront registration fees," the scheme said.
From the total number of applications received by the end of November, some applications were incomplete or may have outstanding or incorrect supporting documents. These applicants have been contacted by officials.
Of the 473,911 valid and fully completed applications received by the closing date, 346,364 were declared eligible for funding at this stage, 36,865 were withdrawn, and 28,979 did not meet the minimum funding criteria.
Most of the applications were from KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Gauteng.
About 80% of applicants have indicated universities are their first choice for studies.
The scheme said it anticipated that, as in previous years, a "significant number of students will apply after they have registered at TVET colleges in January 2020".
In the previous year, this category of students totalled 160,000.
Students previously funded by NSFAS who will be continuing their studies in 2020 will be funded based on progression results to be received from the institutions.
Additional temporary staff have been employed to ensure all applications are processed before the start of the academic year, NSFAS said.