How NSFAS Plans To Deal With Impact Of Budget Cuts

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The number of students funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is set to decrease due to budget cuts. However, the fund has revealed its plans on how to mitigate the impact of a smaller purse. 


The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) had a forecasted budget of R41.9 billion for 2024/2025 to fund university students. This was set to increase to R43.7 billion for 2025/2026.

In addition, they received R9.7 Billion for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges for 2024 and R10 billion for 2025.  

They plan to spend this money by providing comprehensive funding which enables students from working-class homes to obtain a tertiary education qualification. To qualify for the comprehensive bursary, students must not have a household income exceeding R350,000 per annum. 

However, fiscal containment led the National Treasury to announce budget cuts across government departments. This includes a budget cut of R13.7 billion for tertiary education. 

Several students fear that they may lose their opportunity to receive the NSFAS bursary due to these budget cuts. Some even fear that NSFAS may move the goalpost by adjusting its funding criteria allowing them to fund fewer students. 

While NSFAS said funding criteria remain the same, they are yet to release the official Eligibility Criteria and Conditions for Funding. This document contains all the nitty gritty details which dictate who receives funding, what type of funding they receive and under which conditions will their funding remain. 

NSFAS Responds 

NSFAS Ishmael Mnisi says budget cuts will affect the higher education landscape including the work done by NSFAS. However, several measures will be introduced to circumvent the budgetary shortfalls. 

We are putting plans to ensure that we circumvent such kind of shortfalls by budgeting appropriately and ensuring that each and every reserve that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has is utilised appropriately, and distributed to needy students so that we avoid any losses of this revenue. 

Mnisi says NSFAS had previously anticipated that they would increase the number of students being funded by the scheme. Currently, NSFAS funds around 1,1 million students enrolled in public higher education institutions in South Africa. 

However, with the shortfalls that might result from the revenue given to NSFAS, we acknowledge that we might keep this number even less than what we have funded.

The spokesperson says they are likely to fund less than one million students due to the budget cuts. NSFAS will also look to ensure they reduce losses in cases where ineligible students receive funding. 

The fund lost approximately R5 billion by funding at least 40,000 students who exceeded the NSFAS household income threshold and received funding to study. 

We will cross that bridge when we know exactly the amount of money that has been appropriated and we are also looking at mechanisms to ensure that within the post-school education and training sector we maximise the amounts we are currently having and reduce the losses we may have incurred.  

Will NSFAS Funding Change?

Mnisi says NSFAS does not plan to change the comprehensive funding received by deserving students. This means that if students are approved for NSFAS funding, they will receive the same allowances that NSFAS paid to deserving students in the past. 

"We are hell-bent on covering the seven areas that NSFAS are focusing which include registration fees, tuition, learning materials, living allowance fees, personal care, transport [and] accommodation," said Mnisi.

NSFAS 2024 Applications 

NSFAS applications for the 2024 academic year opened in November 2023. The bursary scheme has revealed until when students can apply for funding. 

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The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has finally opened its much-anticipated window for funding applications to be submitted for 2024. But just how much time do applicants have to apply and send in their applications? 


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