National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is bracing itself for the record number of applications this year judging by the volumes it has already received so far, two months before the deadline. According to the students finance body’s projections more students will be applying for financial assistance because of the severe economic slump caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In its media statement this week, NSFAS said by the end of August this year, it had received more than 160 536 applications since the opening of the applications at the beginning of August. On average the applications received hovered between 5000 and 6000 towards the end of last month and currently the total number of applications stands at 188 733, said the body.
Last year the finance scheme received well over 400 000 applications and this cost the tax payer a whopping R32 billion with the estimated number of students funded for the year just under 800 000. As the applications are set to increase this year, it is anticipated the total loan disbursement figure is also likely to spike.
Traditionally, applications are invited from Grade 9 to Grade 12 learners and the youth who are out of school but who wish to further their studies at either a university or a technical and vocational education and training (TVET) of their choice.
To qualify for funding, a prospective student has to meet the financial eligibility criteria chief of which is that he or she should be coming from a household with the income below R350 000 per annum. Students who are successful receive bursary funding which covers tuition fee and an allowance for learning materials. Some may also qualify for subsidised accommodation and transport allowances where applicable.
The student aid scheme has partnered with the National Youth Development Agency and the department of basic education. The partners will make their facilities available to students in all the nine provinces to apply free of charge. Majority of these application centres are located within reach to most students.
NSFAS announced recently that it is working closely with the revenue services to verify income- related information submitted by students for financial assistance. This followed reports that some students were defrauding the scheme by understating their actual household income status. The body has threatened to freeze the funding to the affected students and that they will pursue legal action to recoup the money claimed under false pretence.
The body has also been in the news for some of its costly “system errors”, which resulted in overpayment of substantial amounts of money into students accounts. The most widely reported being R14 million paid into the account of Sibongile Mani – a former Walter Sisulu University student.
Meanwhile South African Students Organisation (Sasco) has called on President Ramaphosa to extend the NSFAS’ household income threshold from R350 000 per annum to R600 000. Bamanye Matiwane, Sasco’s president made the call during his organisation’s 29th recent anniversary virtual celebrations. Matiwane also demanded that NSFAS should expedite the delivery of laptops to all deserving poor students and that government should establish a student bank.
The closing date for the applications is November 30 2020 and these could be submitted via smartphone, personal computer or by using any of the applications centres of NSFAS partners.