On the afternoon of Tuesday, 21 November, the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, took to the podium once again to announce the opening of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursary for the 2024 academic year. Nzimande also gave further details on this application period.
2024 NSFAS applications officially open on 21 November and will close on 31 January 2024. This gives applicants two months to apply for NSFAS bursaries, less than usual, due to the delayed opening date.
On the opening of NSFAS applications, the Minister said:
The only way to access NSFAS is through applying. Now that we are open, we are calling on all prospective students to apply. Apply timeously and don’t wait for the last day.
The Minister announced that no supporting documents will need to be submitted when applying. He also said that there is no need to wait for matric results to apply.
Why did NSFAS applications open so late?
Explaining why NSFAS applications opened so late, Nzimande said:
The reason for opening in November, is so that we can afford the beneficiary shorter turn around times for decision making which is aligned to our financial eligibility assessment which requires updated SARS information.
NSFAS was waiting for SARS to complete their tax period to make sure that the availability of necessary and updated information during the application season. This strategic timing facilitates the efficient processing of a NSFAS online application and aligns with the organisation's commitment to streamlining decision-making processes.
Sassa beneficiaries will receive immediate funding decisions. In 2023, Sassa beneficiaries made up 35% of NSFAS beneficiaries.
Should NSFAS applications be rejected, the first-time applicant would be able to appeal immediately. Returning students will only be able to appeal from the end of November.
The Minister also said that he has called for NSFAS and the department to tie up any loose ends of 2023, which would include NSFAS appeals for 2023. They are now working on finalising appeals and the payment of outstanding allowances for 2023.
The proposed funding policy is also almost ready with Nzimande revealing that it will be released at the end of November. It will cover issues brought up this year concerning eligibility criteria and allowances, such as the R45 000 accommodation allowance cap.
NSFAS is said to have improved on application processes as well as providing quick turnaround times on funding decisions.