The 2020 National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) cycle opened on September 1, 2019. This means students have three months to apply for funding for the 2020 academic year. The scheme and the department of higher education and training have expressed their confidence in being able to have a successful process and disburse funding. However, there are still many problems facing the scheme. The Daily Vox team rounds up.
UPDATE as of August 03 2020: Minister Dr Blade Nzimande officially opened the NSFAS 2021 Application cycle on 3rd August 2020. This year the NSFAS application cycle will run for a period of four months starting from August 03 with the closing date being November 30, 2020.
UPDATE as of 24 January 2020: In a statement released by the Department, it was announced that the Nsfas process is not closed to those students who will be accepted at universities and colleges who might not have applied for NSFAS assistance. According to the department, there is already a process in place to manage this between institutions and NSFAS to ensure that late applicants that have been accepted for registered places can access funding if they qualify.
UPDATE: In a statement, Nsfas revealed that they’ve received more than 141 933 applications since the opening date. By September 30, NSFAS had received an additional 27 455 applications as compared to the 101 545 received around the same time last year.
UPDATE: On 18 September, The Daily Vox hosted a live question and answer session with NSFAS administrator Dr Randall Colissen. You can follow that conversation:
Readiness for the 2020 academic year
Applications for the 2020 academic year opens September 1 and closes November 30. Nsfas announced that the new improved online system includes the fast-tracking of the grant recipient. Learners with disabilities will supposedly have an easier application process. They will not need to get any additional forms from a doctor. Student applicants will need to prove their identity through their name, surname, and identity document number.
Nsfas will also be engaging with relevant role-players to ensure more access points for applications. This will include universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges. Nsfas will also increase their presence at application venues during the application windows.
Nsfas under administration
Former minister Naledi Pandor placed the aid scheme under administration in 2018. This was after a collapse in governance at the scheme. Dr Randall Carolissen was appointed an administrator.
Nzimande said he has decided to approve the second phase of administration. This period will run from August 2019 to August 2020. “Dr Randall Carolissen has agreed to continue as the administrator to fulfil the responsibilities of management, governance and administration of NSFAS during this period,” said Nzimande.
New ministerial team
Nzimande said he will be appointing a ministerial task team to review “the business processes and functionality of NSFAS in order to ensure that this bursary scheme functions optimally for the long-term future.” More details on the team have yet to be released by the minister.
Who qualifies for Nsfas
Nsfas funding is available for any of the 26 public universities or 50 technical vocational and educational training. (TVET) To be eligible to receive Nsfas funding, applicants need to be a South African citizen; intend to enrol at any of the public universities or TVET colleges in 2020.
The University of KwaZulu Natal saw many protests in 2019 around funding. Protests broke out at the university over the lack of funding for postgraduate students. Amongst the demands presented by students were called for free postgraduate education for all Nsfas beneficiaries. The university at the time said they did not have the resources for funding the students. Nsfas did not respond to questions around the protests and students’ demands.
When will application results be communicated?
Application results will be communicated to all applicants once NSFAS has received confirmation from the institution that an academic offer has been made to you. This will be communicated to you before the start of the academic year via SMS and email to the cell phone numbers or email addresses provided by you when you applied.
What is the average time NSFAS takes to finalise payments to students for accommodations and meals?
When NSFAS has received registration data from all institutions, funding is made available immediately. Funds are transferred to universities on a monthly basis for allowances. It is to be noted that all universities agreed to administer direct funds of allowances to students, meaning that NSFAS transfers funds to universities then universities transfer these funds directly to their students.
The protests around free education in 2019 continued. At the beginning many campuses around the country were shut down over protests for free education. One of the major issues affecting students was historic debt. Nsfas has previously told The Daily Vox that they had not received any government commitment to write-off any outstanding student debts.
How to get in touch with Nsfas
Students can get in touch with NSFAS via the myNSFAS Online Self-Service Portal which can be accessed via the website or via the NSFAS Contact Centre which has a toll free number 0800 067 327. Alternatively, they are on social media on Twitter @MyNSFAS or Facebook as National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
Why has NSFAS chosen to work with Thusong Centres for the 2020 Application Cycle
Thusong Service Centres are one-stop, integrated community development centres, with community participation and services relevant to people’s needs. They aim to empower the poor and disadvantaged through access to information, services and resources from government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), parastatals, business, etc. enabling them to engage in government programmes for the improvement of their lives.
Why did the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) decide to stop providing book vouchers and award cash grants for books to each student?
Learning Materials’ (Book) allowances only apply at universities and the trend has been to move more towards access to the internet than the purchase of books. NSFAS stopped book vouchers for a number of reasons. In addition, the call to change book vouchers to cash was one of the many demands by the student leadership in South Africa, as part of their input in the policy governing the higher education student funding.