With the December holidays just around the corner, Nsfas has opened for 2024 bursary applications but students say it is too late.
Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande announced the official opening of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) bursary applications for the 2024 academic year. The announcement on 21 November, highlighted recent incidents of gender-based violence at universities, the Nsfas mandate and the overall opening of the 2024 application season.
Recently, Elitsha reported that delays in payments by outsourced financial service providers that disburse funds on behalf of Nsfas was affecting the beneficiaries negatively.
“Since 1991, Nsfas funding has grown from disbursing R21.4-million to almost 48-billon to fund children of the working class and the poor seeking to further their studies in public universities and TVET colleges,” said Nzimande. This is a clear indication, in the minister’s opinion, that government has prioritised student funding and the broadening of access to education to communities that did not have access to post school education and training in the past.
“In order for Nsfas to successfully implement the 2024 funding, there needs to be closure of the 2023 funding cycle. This includes the finalisation of all the appeals and payment of all outstanding allowances for the academic year 2023. Nsfas committed that all appeals and the payment of outstanding allowances will be finalised this year,” said Nzimande.
However, Student Representative Council (SRC) members are concerned about the readiness of Nsfas to welcome new applicants. “They [Nsfas] still have not finalised appeals and funding outcomes for 2023. What makes them think they will be able to process all the applicants by Feb next year? It’s impossible. Next year, students straight from high school won’t be able to get accommodation because their funding decision will not have been made yet; we see this every year with Nsfas; it will just be worse next year because they opened so late,” said Phiwokuhle Qabaka, SRC chairperson at Stellenbosch University.
According to Nzimande, Nsfas was delayed in opening for applications by the need for the revenue service (Sars) to complete the 2023 tax period which would enable the scheme to have the necessary information available to process applications. “This is done to afford the beneficiaries shorter turnaround times for decision-making which is aligned to Nsfas financial eligibility assessment which requires updated Sars information,” said Nzimande.
The minister implored all students who wish to further their studies to “apply timeously and not to wait until the last day. Student don’t have to wait for matric results in order to apply for Nsfas.”
As part of the improved Nsfas system, no supporting documents will be required at the time of application due to cooperation between the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa), the Department of Home Affairs and Sars. “They will be providing Nsfas with information to verify what the student would have declared in the application. The only time supporting documents will be required is when prompted by Nsfas in cases where they cannot verify the parental relationship,” added Nzimande.
Nsfas will make immediate funding decisions for first-year students who are registered with Sassa.