Students struggle to access NSFAS funds

Sheilan Clarke

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Fort Hare University students say there are problems with the way funding is channeled through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). We spoke to one of the students at the university while having a look at the NSFAS Act. What the Act say about loans and bursaries The Act says that the money for […]

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Fort Hare University students say there are problems with the way funding is channeled through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). We spoke to one of the students at the university while having a look at the NSFAS Act.

What the Act say about loans and bursaries

The Act says that the money for the loan or bursary will be paid directly to the higher education institution concerned. The money will then be paid to the financial aid office at whichever campus the student is registered and only then will the money be paid out to the student. But according to Fort Hare student Ndiphiwe Mhlontlo, sometimes students who have registered through NSFAS are told that they do not appear on the system. He says many students, particularly first-year students, find it difficult to access tuition funding and meal allowances.

Another issue is that some students are yet to receive funding that they were meant to have gotten at the beginning of the academic year. The Act says NSFAS is allowed to cut funding if the student does not “perform satisfactorily” in their studies. The funding is meant to cover tuition fees, residence or private accommodation costs, food, books and travel. But Mhlontlo says some students received only a portion of their tuition fees, book allowances and no money for meals.

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Some students have not received funding for all these expenses.

Where does NSFAS gets its funding from?

NSFAS gets its funding from parliament, donations, contributions as well as money repaid by borrowers. The Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Skills Training, Mduduzi Manana, said recently that of  NSFAS’s R9.5 billion, over R6 billion came from his department. The rest of the money came from the Department of Basic Education (through the Funza Lushaka Bursary Fund), the Department of Social Development, provincial governments of KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape, SETAs and the National Skills Fund. Additionally, for the 2015/2016 financial year, R453 million was “ploughed back into the NSFAS budget from recoveries”.

Manana stressed that it was important for past beneficiaries to pay back their loans.

Eastern Cape readers are invited to come to a debate Live SA will be hosting at Fort Hare University, Alice campus on September 10. These and other questions will be tackled under the topic “Free Education: Has NSFAS Failed Us?”

This debate will be followed by a policy hack debate titled “Fixing NSFAS”, at the same venue on September 11.
Visit our Facebook page for more info.

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