More than one million tertiary students are set to receive financial aid from NSFAS for the 2023 academic year. Government has revealed how much money is allocated for student funding.
On Wednesday, Minister Blade Nzimande tabled the Department of Higher Education and Trainings (DHET) budget vote in parliament and announced an allocation (for entire sector) of R133.8 billion for the 2023/24 financial year, with an annual average increase of 5.3%.
Minister Nzimande also briefed MP’s on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) positive outcomes and challenges.
At its inception in 1991, the bursary scheme’s had a budget of R21.4 million allocated to the first cohort of about 7,000 students.
From the R47,7 billion budget, a total of R38.6 billion has been allocated to universities and for the first time TVET Colleges have passed the 1 billion mark with a budget allocation of R8,9 billion.
He said that Sassa beneficiaries account for around 49% of the funded students for the current academic year.
“To date, the scheme improved its student application portal, and it has introduced a WhatsApp and USSD functionality to assist students with the tracking of applications for 2023 and to receive responses directly in order to reduce the reliance on the call centre,” said the minister.
Students who receive the NSFAS bursary receive several allowances in addition to their tuition and registration fees. These allowances include a learning material allowance, a living material allowance, and an accommodation allowance.
NSFAS also pays living allowances in the sum of R1,750 per month and personal care for distance students to the value of R 3,045 per academic year. Students not living in residences and private accommodation qualify for transport allowances of R 7 875.
As of the 2023 academic year, NSFAS capped all accommodation allowances at R45 000 per annum, they explained that this was done as a measure to curb accommodation service providers from overcharging for student housing.
Over the years the fund has received a lot of back-lash from students and stakeholders regarding student housing.
In an effort to address issues within student housing, NSFAS decided that a more thorough and hands-on approach was needed to improve student accommodation for NSFAS beneficiaries.
Therefore, the fund has opted to be fully involved in the process as of 2023 in order to manage costs and prevent vulnerable fraudulent occurrences.
As a result, the bursary scheme opened an accreditation portal for accommodation providers to apply for accreditation. He adds, “Already, 8196 beds have been accredited covering the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal Provinces.”
Furthermore, Nzimande also spoke about the new NSFAS direct payment system that is currently being rolled at institutions across the country.
“Last year NSFAS also introduced direct payments through the NSFAS bank card for TVET Colleges. Groundwork is being done to onboard universities in a phased in approach from the 1st of June this year.”
New Funding Model
Earlier this year the minster stated that his department was working toward developing an alternative funding model for university and technical vocational education and training (TVET) college students.
Nzimande revealed that the department is currently finalising the new Comprehensive Student Funding Model.
“We aim through this also to introduce measures to support all the categories of students including those who are not supported by the current NSFAS funding policy.”
The new model is also set to avail loans and bursaries to missing middle students and they aim to submit their findings to Cabinet before the end of this year.