NSFAS gets ball rolling, more than 1.24-million students provisionally funded

Scheme has received close to 2-million applications

04 March 2024 - 15:24
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NSFAS acting chair Prof Lourens van Staden briefs the media on the progress of NSFAS for academic year 2024.
NSFAS acting chair Prof Lourens van Staden briefs the media on the progress of NSFAS for academic year 2024.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has provisionally funded 1.2-million students and rejected about 240,000 bursary applications so far for the 2024 academic year. 

This was revealed by the scheme's acting chairperson of the board, Prof Lourens van Staden, on Monday.

The scheme had received 1,936,330 applications as of February 16. Applications closed the previous day. 

By March 1, 1,244,854 students had been provisionally funded, 59,723 were awaiting evaluations, 94,816 required supporting documents, while 52,038 applications were still in progress. Other applications were withdrawn or “not started” as applicants created profiles but did not submit applications.

Of those turned down, 15,174 appeals have been lodged.

Nsfas also received 30,728 loan applications.

“We have pre-assessed and determined students who pre-qualify for the loan. This is specifically for those students who are above the income threshold for the bursary but within the loan threshold,” said Van Staden. 

He said the next step would be for NSFAS to communicate with institutions to request their admission data for registered students in line with the requirements of the loan of the 70 vs 30 split in Stem and social sciences subjects.

He said after this process, they envisage that 31,800 missing middle students will receive student loans.

Van Staden said NSFAS has been processing about 23,000 applications a day. Priority was given to applicants who have received firm offers of admission from universities or are enrolled at Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. 

He said the scheme had received complaints about the effectiveness of its call centre and pledged to improve the query-handling mechanism to ensure it is more responsive. 

Due to challenges at the beginning of the 2024 academic year, which led to delays in receiving registration data from universities, the board asked institutions to operate as interim channels to pay the February and March allowances.

The scheme made two upfront payments to all institutions. The first was disbursed on January 31 and the second on February 29. These were to help institutions distribute students’ allowances.

“The majority of institutions committed to paying students from the last week of February.” 

Financial aid managers were also asked to confirm the universities' allowances payment commitment dates. 

“For TVET colleges, we will be paying through the direct payment channel. The 29 institutions that have submitted registration data will be paid by Friday this week, latest. We encourage all other institutions to submit registration data, to enable NSFAS to make a catch-up payment,” he said. 

For universities, NSFAS disbursed R2.8bn in January. This disbursement does not include the calculation of the tranche payments, which the scheme will disburse at the beginning of April.

“This upfront payment covers one month of student accommodation and the book allowance. The book allowance is calculated at half the total cost, while the accommodation is calculated as one month of the accommodation cost.

“For TVET colleges, a total of R580,150,950.00 was paid to colleges as tuition upfront in January,” Van Staden said. 

An additional R1bn is earmarked for three months’ worth of allowances to be paid based on registration from the January-March period.

Update on Werksmans report recommendations

Van Staden said the scheme has taken significant steps towards implementing the recommendations of the Werksmans Attorneys report on the appointment of direct payment service providers.

“This report, commissioned by NSFAS, aimed to provide a comprehensive analysis of the scheme and identify areas for improvement, particularly in relation to procurement systems and management deficiencies,” he said. 

He added the scheme recognises the importance of addressing the concerns outlined in the report and is committed to ensuring accountability for any wrongdoing.

“By implementing the recommendations, NSFAS will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the scheme. The NSFAS board remains committed to holding accountable those who have engaged in wrongdoing as contained in the Werksmans Attorneys report.

“Nsfas has initiated a thorough investigation to identify individuals involved in incorrect procurement of the fintech companies. We will ensure we subject these individuals to appropriate disciplinary action, including legal action if necessary, to restore public trust and confidence in the scheme,” he said. 


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