UWC 'hopeful' of resolving fees crisis after NSFAS talks

Urgent discussions between the University of the Western Cape and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) that lasted into the weekend have left the university “hopeful” that a solution to its fees crisis could be found before the end of September.

Fees-related protests turned ugly last week and 20 students were arrested, following their demand that UWC itself meet apparent shortfalls in NSFAS funds. The university started negotiations with NSFAS last week, telling M&G Education that an unusual number of students had applied for NSFAS funding in the second semester.

Some students also claimed their supply of Pick ‘n Pay vouchers—part of their NSFAS allocations - had dried up.

“We have been in discussions with NSFAS since Wednesday, and hope to have a resolution in place soon,” university spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said on Monday.

“We initially asked the fund for an additional R10-million, and will hopefully know the outcome of our request towards the end of the month,” he said.

NSFAS has allocated R64-million to UWC for this year, but student applications required an additional R11-million.

Tyhalibongo said the Student Representative Council had been kept informed of the developments with NSFAS, and were “satisfied” with the pace of negotiations.

In a statement on Sunday, NSFAS spokesperson Bonny Feldman said it was “not possible to comment on how much, if any, additional funds could be made available to students who had missed the initial NSFAS deadlines”.

“A budget is made available for student financial aid by national treasury through the department of higher education and training for each academic year and that, when the budget has been exhausted (as awards are made to students), the pool of funds is depleted,” Feldman said.

“NSFAS does not have access to funds beyond the annual budget, and thus it is not possible for NSFAS to commit to providing additional amounts as and when requests for more funds are made,” she 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".  
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