Johannesburg – Government has made money available to clear the historic debt of students who qualify for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
“The historic debt of all students who qualify for NSFAS has been resolved. The funding will be made available to qualifying students, who were studying between 2013 and 2015, in the form of a loan.
“These students would either have been unfunded or underfunded, although they qualified for NSFAS funding,” NSFAS chairperson Sizwe Nxasana said on Thursday.
Nxasana was briefing the media on the NSFAS 2016 budget allocations. He also outlined the administration processes for additional funding following the recent government resolution on historic debt and upfront registration fees for NSFAS students.
Nxasana said the loans to students can be converted into bursaries in terms of NSFAS rules.
“Students who perform well and pass all of their registered courses will have their loans converted up to 40% bursary. NSFAS will convert study loans into a 100% bursary when graduation requirements are met during the final year of study.”
Payments will be effected to students who are still studying, those who dropped out and those who graduated within the stipulated academic years.
Nxasana said the scheme has already paid universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges a total of R1.8 billion for registration fees in advance for all NSFAS qualifying students.
“NSFAS has sent a Historic Debt Loan Agreement Form to all universities to be completed by students in respect of 2013 to 2015 fees.
“A separate agreement form will have to be completed in respect of 2016 fees for continuing students. NSFAS will pay the universities upon receiving the completed loan agreement forms,” Nxasana said.
On Wednesday, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande, who met with university chancellors, announced that no students who meet the NSFAS means test (and who have been offered a place at any university) will be required to pay upfront payments or registration fees when registering for the 2016 academic year.
The NSFAS budget will increase from R9.5 billion in 2015 to R10 billion in 2016/17.
Of this amount, over R700 million has been allocated for full bursaries in scarce and critical skills for the current year. This funding is made available through the financial aid offices at universities.
Nxasana encouraged students who are enrolled in critical skills study programme, including science, commerce, health sciences, engineering and many others, should apply for this funding.
In his January 8th statement, President Jacob Zuma announced that government will allocate an additional R4.582 billion funding to NSFAS to provide for loans amounting to R2.543 billion to assist 71 753 identified students, who qualified for NSFAS funding but were either partially funded or not funded for the past three academic years.
An additional R2.039 billion will ensure that any of the NSFAS qualifying students, who are still in the university system in 2016, are supported financially to continue and complete their qualification.
Nxasana clarified that the funding is in addition to the R10 billion that has been allocated to NSAFAS in the 2016/17 financial year.
“In total, the budget that will be administered by NSFAS in 2016 comes to R14.582 billion.”
Meanwhile, NSFAS has improved operating hours for the 2016 registration period at its contact centre. The centre now operates from 8am to 8pm on Monday to Friday, and from 8am to 4.30pm on Saturday.
In addition to the normal operational hours, 10 inbound contact centre agents were employed and trained to assist with students’ application enquiries.