Government Exploring Ways To Fund Missing Middle Students


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While thousands of students receive tertiary education bursaries from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, many do not qualify for the financial aid because they are “too rich”. However, some of these students come from households that cannot afford to send the students to university or college.

 


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Earlier this year, Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande revealed that the department is developing a ten-year plan to create a comprehensive financial aid model for South Africa. This financial aid model will draw on a diversity of funding sources and integrate work across the government.

Nzimande added that this comprehensive financial aid model should incorporate loan funding options for students in the missing middle.

Apart from the existing scholarships and bursaries available to these students a fully comprehensive model must include a loan component.

The missing middle refers to a group of students who do not qualify for a National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) bursary but cannot afford to pay for their studies.

To qualify for a Nsfas bursary, students must come from households with a combined household income not exceeding R350,000 per annum. Missing-middle students come from homes that exceed this household income threshold but cannot afford the cost of tertiary education.

While the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) will investigate possible funding options for missing middle students, including loan options, they have not yet made any decisions.

Responding to written questions in Parliament, the DHET revealed that it had not entered into any agreements with the banking sector to provide loans to missing middle students.

The department said there have been engagements with banks about the possibility of a loan scheme supported by government guarantees.

A report compiled by the Higher Education Ministerial Task Team on funding options has been presented to the department. The department says the findings of this report are currently under discussion.

“In addition, the report reflected on the findings of the Heher Judicial Commission on the funding of higher education, which included recommendations for an income-contingent loan model, which would include the tax-collection authority,” added the DHET.

The department added that when investigating possible student loan options for students, they will be mindful of the student debt situation in South Africa and the feasibility of collecting loans.

One of the few bursaries which aims to help the missing middle is the Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP) bursary.






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