What is the 'missing middle'?


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We've heard the term 'missing middle' come up frequently when speaking about higher education and funding but what does it mean? Sifanele Biyela, Regional Project Manager at Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme, explains what the 'missing middle' is.


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Missing middle? What is that and why have we all heard it before? Well, Sifanele Biyela, Regional Project Manager at Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP), broke down what the 'missing middle' is.

'Missing middle' students would refer to students who are currently 'not poor enough' to qualify for NSFAS funding but are also cannot afford to pay fees to study further.

Families that fall within the R350 000 to R600 000 household income per year bracket would fall under this category. With the financial aid scheme that the South Africa government currently provides, they would not qualify. Research from the University of Pretoria in 2019 has found this group to be 343,000 students.

If you look at affordability within the families, that salaries could not afford the parents/guardians to fund the fees of students.

ISFAP then tries to bridge this gap by providing bursaries to students who come from houses with a yearly household income which ranges between R0 and R600 000. 

ISFAP is a foundation that's donor-funded and is not under government.

Where to find ISFAP 

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The Department of Higher Education revealed that the total student debt in South Africa has grown to approximately R16.5 billion. At the same time, funding for missing middle students remains a critical challenge.






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