Does NSFAS Fund Semester Studies?

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The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is a government-funded financial aid scheme that has the aim of assisting students that are unable to afford and pursue tertiary education due to finances. But, does NSFAS fund your semester studies? 


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NSFAS exists to provide financial aid to students who are without the necessary funds but are looking to enter higher education institutions such as public universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges in South Africa.

Available through student loans and bursary opportunities, NSFAS allows students who need financial aid to pursue their studies within accredited public universities and TVET colleges. So, yes: NSFAS does fund semester studies. 

NSFAS funds a student for the duration of their studies, without the requirement of applying every semester or every year. Whether the duration is one or two semesters or three to four years, NSFAS will fund their studies. 

For National Universities, NSFAS will cover the following: 

  1. Tuition fees, as long as the student passes all their modules, coursework and other academic requirements. 
  2. The standard cost of university student accommodation (private accommodation is not funded). 
  3. Travelling costs.
  4. A student's personal care costs. 
  5. A living allowance as well as an allowance for the student's books. 

For TVET Institutions, NSFAS will cover the following: 

  1. Allowance depending on a student's living area (an urban area, a peri-urban area or a rural area). 
  2. Travelling costs.
  3. A student's personal care costs. 
  4. A personal care budget that is allocated to students living in catered residences. 

Although studying at a University or a TVET college can be very similar, there are some notable differences. One difference is that when applying to a TVET college, there are different applications and application processes for varied lengths of studying.

A student can choose to study full-time, study for the semester or study for the trimester. Students will need to submit applications and or reapply at the beginning of each semester or trimester. 

The trimester system is not often used in South Africa, but TVET colleges are most likely the institutions that will enforce it. 

Throughout the year, universities and colleges follow the academic year/calender.

If the academic year is made up of semesters, the year is split into two parts and consists of around twenty weeks each, while trimesters are when the academic year is divided into three parts instead of two.

This means, instead of twenty weeks, the three parts stretch around twelve to thirteen weeks, with breaks in between. To prepare themselves and rest for the next semester, students have a two to three week break between the two parts of the semesters. 


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NSFAS funding is highly sought after in South Africa as the financial aid scheme will cover more than just your fees. If your NSFAS status is 'Financial Eligible', here's what this means.

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