First-year students in limbo as NSFAS faces funding shortfall

Wits University students protest registration fro students with historical debt and accommodation issues, 05022019

First-year students in need of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) will have to wait to find out if they will receive funding. 

Blade Nzimande has revealed that NSFAS is facing a shortfall which makes them unable to confirm funding for first year students. Speaking at a press briefing on Monday March 08, the minister of higher education blamed budget cuts along as well as the COVID-19 pandemic for the shortfall. He said a final decision would be announced soon. 

“NSFAS is going to be funding all returning NSFAS students who meet the eligibility criteria,” Nzimande said. Funding guidelines for the coming year will need to meet cabinet’s approval. The registration period will be extended for first-year students due to the NSFAS delays. Once the cabinet makes a decision around funding, the minister said more details would be given to the media.

Read more: The list: Opening dates for South African universities in 2021

Over the weekend NSFAS was embroiled in a social media uproar when they said grant recipients were not eligible for funding. They quickly corrected themselves. 

NSFAS usually fields many enquiries about higher education funding on its social media pages. A Twitter user asked whether it was possible to be denied NSFAS funding if they had received  the R350 relief South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grant. The NSFAS account replied that once a person received the grant, they would not qualify for NsNSFASfas funding. 

Many Twitter users responded angrily to the issue. On Saturday night, NSFAS released a statement clarifying the issue. They said it was factually incorrect to say that a person who receives the R350 grant will not be funded. NSFAS said the incorrect information was shared erroneously by an uninformed employee. “It is important to note that all Sassa grant recipients are funded automatically,” the statement said. 

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. Other requirements include Sassa grant recipients or a combined household income is not more than R350 000 per year or person with a disability with a combined household income of not more than R600 000 per year or student who begun their university studies before 2018 and their household income is not more than R122 000 per year. 

Read more: Here’s What You Need To Know About NSFAS 2021