The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) will spend over a billion rand more in its 2017 budget allocated to student loans and bursaries, but its estimations suggest that this will accommodate fewer students this year than it did last year.
The government funding scheme said on Thursday it would be accommodating around 405 000 students with financial aid totalling R15.2 billion for 2017. In 2016, the scheme said, it disbursed loans and bursaries totalling to about R14 billion for approximately 480 000 students.
This year’s budget would be divided within 205 000 eligible first-time and continuing students at universities and 200 000 students at TVET colleges in 2017. Nsfas did however indicate that it could possibly accommodate more students this year, than it initially estimated.
Applications for students reopened on Monday this week for the second and last application window for students who wish to study at universities and TVET colleges.
The closing date for university applications will be 20 January 2017, while TVET college students have until 14 February to send their applications.
The scheme’s spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo told The Citizen that it was dealing with some initial hiccups in the application process for 2017.
“We have started sending out feedback messages to the majority of students who applied last year. There are still some who have not yet received feedback but we will be doing that progressively throughout the week. Some of the applications had outstanding documents and that is what caused the delay in their processing.”
But it won’t be all doom and gloom for government assisted students this year as Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande announced several packages government had prepared to assist poor students.
“Government will pay the fee increase, capped at 8%, for all qualifying registered students with a gross combined family income up to R600 000 per annum in 2017.
“This is a grant, which covers for tuition fees and university or college managed accommodation, and will have to be repaid by the qualifying students,” Nzimande said.
“We’ve also gone further and made arrangements through Nsfas to pay the registration fees for all Nsfas funded students as an upfront payment to universities and TVET colleges in January each year. Therefore, Nsfas qualifying students will not pay any registration fees.”