The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is pleased to announce that an amount of R230 million was made available yesterday by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to assist students to pay unpaid university fees for 2013.
NSFAS will now pay funds to universities to settle the outstanding fees of students who applied for NSFAS funding in 2013, but who did not receive funding last year due to the shortage of funds experienced every year.These students continued to study for the whole of 2013 without funding and must now pay off their student debt for last year before they can register for 2014.
Many universities allow students to sign loan agreement forms (LAFs) over and above their annual allocation of funds. They submit these to NSFAS but we cannot process any claims that exceed the allocation. However the students are often under the impression that they have been funded because they have signed the LAF, and are unaware they have remained unfunded for the whole year.
We acknowledge the frustration faced by many students who cannot access student financial aid due to the limited availability of funds. We welcome the decision by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to make additional funding available urgently to address this problem.
BUDGET OF OVER R9 BILLION FOR 2014
Our 2014 budget will be over R9,7 billion for more than 430 000 students at all 25 public universities and 50 public FET colleges. Even with this increased budget, we will still be able to help only one out of every two students who apply for funding this year.
The mandate of NSFAS is to provide loans and bursaries to students from poor and working class households who need financial assistance to pay for tuition and residence fees, books and travel to and from campus. Student loans are different from personal or other loans and cannot be used by students to pay for items other than those listed above.
NSFAS receives its budget in April each year and pays out funds to universities and
colleges up until the end of the financial year on 31 March.
In 2013, our budget was R8,315 billion, of which we have already paid out R7,4 by January 2014. This is the single biggest amount of funding NSFAS has ever made by January of any year in its history. It is a significant increase over this time last year, when we had paid out R6,8 billion. This year we will finalise all payments by the second week of February, well ahead of the March deadline.
NSFAS is committed to raising more funds each year for loans and bursaries and to ensuring that this funding reaches the students for whom it is intended. We are committed to increasing the pool of funds to ensure that student from poor and working class families have the chance to attend university or college.
We have already made an advance payment for 2014 to all FET colleges to the value of 10 per cent of their annual allocation. We are waiting for requests from universities for a similar advance payment, which we make at this time each year. We Invite institutions, student organisation and other stakeholders to explore ways in which we can provide more funding for student loans and bursaries.