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There are many world-renowned universities in South Africa from which you can get an education. But, also expect to pay between R10 000 and R20 000 for each year of undergraduate study – and if you’re pursuing a specialised degree, such as medicine or engineering, it may cost you more.
Consider your options carefully before you choose a university, as most institutions offer bursaries and awards to eligible students. Private universities tend to cost more than subsidised public institutions, and some degrees cost more per year incrementally. You’ll need to plot your study finances very carefully if you want to stay debt-free in your twenties.
Approach your university's financial aid office and request assistance. Most universities offer bursaries, grants and scholarships to students who have excelled in their previous studies – whether that’s in school academics, sport, music or under-graduate degrees. Check with your university’s financial aid officer if you’re eligible for a bursary, and make sure you apply with the correct material before the closing date.
National Financial Aid
If you were born in South Africa, you may be eligible for a National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) loan, in order to study at a public higher education institution. The NSFAS is a statutory body funded by the Department of Education, and it is mandated to provide loans to academically able, but financially needy, students.
Many South African companies offer bursaries to promising students as a means to encourage skills development and training. The terms and conditions of these bursaries differ according to each agreement. Contract bursaries require you to “pay back” the bursary by working at the company once you’ve completed your degree – giving you a job and work experience immediately following your graduation. Some bursaries are awarded simply on the basis of merit, but they may still come with terms and conditions.
All of South Africa’s major banks offer student loans, both to South Africans and non-South Africans with valid study permits. Bank loans, unlike the NSFAS loans, will also cover studies at a private institution. When applying for a bank loan, you will be need to show proof of registration at an educational institution. You’ll also need a parent or guardian to stand surety for you. Although you will only need to start repaying your bank loan once you’ve graduated, you will need to keep up the interest repayments throughout the term of the loan.
Paying your own way
Beginning your career debt-free is nice, but not essential – as many adults will confirm. Another way to pursue your studies is to take a year off to work before studying, or by working part-time while studying. This requires some discipline, as studying is time consuming, and you’ll need to ensure you’re keeping a healthy balance in all parts of your life.