Ishmael Mnisi, spokesperson for the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has extended its bursary application period to 15 February, even though it has yet to settle outstanding fees for the previous year.
Several tertiary institutions across the country, including the University of Johannesburg and the North West University, have confirmed that they are still awaiting payment for last year’s fees.
But NSFAS has asked universities not to delay the registration of students over the outstanding money due to them, assuring them that it is working on settling its accounts.
“NSFAS has been working closely with all the institutions and can confirm that reconciliation has been completed for the academic years 2017 to 2022,” spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said in a statement.
According to Mnisi, about R1.7 billion has been paid to institutions for the 2023 academic year.
“NSFAS is currently engaging remaining institutions for the final sign-off on the agreements and the arrangement for the settlement of outstanding amounts,”he said.
The Mail & Guardian asked how much was still outstanding from last year, but Mnisi had not responded by the time of publication.
NSFAS announced on Thursday that it had received 1 745 226 financial aid applications for the 2024 academic year. The deadline extension for applications comes after the scheme met South African Union of Students president Yandisa Ndzoyiya to discuss the state of readiness for the year.
This year, NSFAS announced a new student loan scheme which Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said was for students who form part of the so-called “missing middle” — those from households whose annual income is between R350 000 and R600 000.
Previously, students were only eligible for NSFAS funding if their annual household income was below R350 000.
The first phase of the new funding model will be implemented in 2024 with a budget of R3.8 billion while the second phase is expected to be put into effect in 2025 with an estimated budget of R4.2 billion.
A joint statement issued by NSFAS and the South African Union of Students said students who had already applied for the bursary scheme need not submit a new application for the student loan scheme.
“All students who did not meet the bursary scheme eligibility criteria, however, meet the loan scheme eligibility criteria, will be automatically offered a loan for their consideration,” the statement said.
According to Nzimande, the loan is expected to fund 70% of students studying science, maths and technology programmes, while 30% would be for humanities programmes.