Government Launches Funding Scheme For Missing Middle Students


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There was good news for university and college students when the Higher Education Minister announced that a new fund has been launched to provide funds for students who haven't been able to access NSFAS funds to pay for their studies.


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The Minister responsible for Higher Education was hard at work on Sunday afternoon to announce a new government loan scheme that is intended to assist students whose families earned too much per year to benefit from the NSFAS bursaries.

Who Are Missing Middle Students?

Minister Blade Nzimande established a task team a few years ago to look into options for funding the post-school education sector. This was specifically to look at the students who fall out of the NSFAS net, often referred to as the 'missing middle' and they make up about 11% of the higher education sector. These are defined as students from families whose annual income is between R350,000 and R600,000 per annum. Research has found they number about 350,000 students.

Nzimande announced that the task team presented their proposals to the national Cabinet in June 2022 and they believe they will resolve the ongoing challenges that causes funding challenges every year when students want to re-register for their studies.

The Minister highlighted that in many developed countries where they refer to 'free' higher education they are only referring to free tuition fees. He highlighted that NSFAS was a superior offering because it also provides funding for accommodation, books, laptops, food and living allowances.

Dr Blade Nzimande

How Much Money Is Available In This Scheme?

Speaking about the launch of the new comprehensive funding model, Nzimande announced that in phase 1 (2024) R3,8 billion will be available to support the loan scheme. R1,5 billion will come from the National Skills Fund with an additional R2,3billlion come from the Setas. This amount is expected to fund 47% of missing middle students. 

The Minister added that the fund for missing middle students will grow each year so that in 10 years it will be valued at more than R42 billion.

The DHET has also provided funds to upgrade the NSFAS ICT systems. The missing middle funding will support university students and TVET college students.

As in the past, all NSFAS funding will only be provided for students at public universities and TVET Colleges. No funding will be provided for private colleges or higher education institutions.

How To Apply For The Missing Middle Loans

The Minister announced that these funds for missing middle students will be available for the 2024 academic year and details on how to apply will be announced by NSFAS within 2 weeks.

The funding will be available for students starting their first year or study, as well as those in second or subsequent years of study. In a departure from previous policy with NSFAS the new scheme will be available for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

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