NSFAS board to be restructured

The board of the state’s controversially underperforming student-financing body, NSFAS, will be “restructured”, Parliament heard last week.

NSFAS—the National Student Financial Aid Scheme—has drawn torrid criticism from students and others in higher education every academic year for about decade. Complaints have included late disbursements to students, poor record-keeping of its substantial state funding, its allocations to universities running out in the middle of academic years and unhelpful treatment of students by NSFAS staff.

Earlier, the Mail & Guardian reported that the auditor general had disclaimed NSFAS’s 2009/10 financial statements. “I was not able to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to provide the basis for an audit opinion,” the auditor general wrote in his report to Parliament on on the statements for the year ending March 2010.

The scheme received nearly R2-billion in last year’s budget. On top of its new budget this year, which is expected to top R2-billion, it will receive a further R1.6-billion this year specifically to fund two new initiatives President Jacob Zuma announced in Polokwane on January 8.

These initiatives are that final-year students with NSFAS loans who graduate this year will have their loans converted to full bursaries, and FET college students who meet NSFAS loan criteria will be exempt from fees, also starting this year.

Now NSFAS board will be “restructured to ensure relevant and appropriate expertise”, Kirti Menon, acting deputy director general of higher education and training told Parliament last week.

This would be one of several moves towards the “realisation of [Zuma’s] Polokwane resolution”, Menon told Parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education and training.

Minister Blade Nzimande had “requested a review of the NSFAS loan book” and a “restructuring of the processing of loan applications”, she said.

There would be “close monitoring of unspent [NSFAS] funds to ensure that all funds allocated are utilised” and a review of “all existing debt management policies and practices”, Menon said.

David Macfarlane

David Macfarlane

David Macfarlane is currently the Mail & Guardian's education editor. He obtained an honours degree in English literature, a fairly unpopular choice among those who'd advised him to study something that would give him a real career and a pension plan. David joined the M&G in the late 1990s. There, the publication's youth – which was nearly everyone except him – also tried to further his education. Since April 2010, he's participated in the largest expansion of education coverage the M&G Media has ever undertaken. He says he's "soon" going on "real annual leave", which will entail "switching off this smart phone the M&G youth told me I needed".   Read more from David Macfarlane


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