Home South African First years left hanging as NSFAS yet to confirm funding for 2021

First years left hanging as NSFAS yet to confirm funding for 2021

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This is due to the scheme’s financial shortfalls for the 2021 academic year.

Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban – The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is unable to confirm funding for first-year university students, due to the scheme’s financial shortfalls for the 2021 academic year.

This was revealed by the Minister of Higher Education and Training (DHET), Blade Nzimande, at an urgent media briefing to update prospective first-year students about their funding issues.

Nzimande said that there were several reasons for the funding shortfall, among them the impact of Covid-19. He said they had to continue to pay NSFASfunded student allowances even when universities and colleges were closed.

“This means that we had an extended academic year which was not allocated additional money. Secondly, we also had budget cuts across government departments.”

Nzimande said due to the deteriorating economic situation, many NSFAS applicants who previously did not meet the funding requirements, now did.

He said the funding scheme was unable to commit to funding students without the requisite budget available to support the commitment.

Nzimande however assured the returning NSFAS beneficiaries that they would be

2021.

During the Budget speech, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said the DHET should work with the National Treasury to identify policy and funding options.

Nzimande said the student funding policy was the responsibility of the government as a whole, not just his department.

“We are doing whatever is possible to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency. We are hopeful that no deserving student will be turned away if they meet the requirements.”

He said the 2021 funding guidelines for universities would be finalised as soon as the Cabinet had made its determination this week. The universities have also agreed to extend their registration period to accommodate first-year students while the issue of funding is finalised.

The department’s receiving their funding for director-general,

Gwebinkundla Qonde, revealed that the amount that had been budgeted for NSFAS was R35 billion.

“The academic year had to be extended and students had to be catered for. The shortfall is being addressed aggressively and the resolution is forthcoming before the end of the week,” he said.

NSFAS has received more than 750 000 applications for the 2021 academic year, an increase of more than 185 000 from last year.

SA Union of Students spokesperson Thabo Shingange said the government did not prioritise higher education.

Shingange said they wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa, asking him to urgently address the identified funding shortfall. He added that they would ask the president and Mboweni to reprioritise the budget to speak to the issues of higher education. “They promised us free education, yet they took away funding subsidies to universities and NSFAS. We are concerned about the 2021 academic year, as it seems like most universities are going to struggle and universities are not going to start due to strikes and protest by angry students.”

Shingange said they were hopeful that the meeting would be fruitful and would also be used to address the issue of historical debt for returning students.

The Mercury