The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) recently opened applications for the 2024 academic year. Several concerns were recently addressed by the scheme's spokesperson regarding the application period, student accommodation and revised eligibility criteria.
NSFAS is currently funding over one million students at public universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. These students will receive money for tuition, registration and general living expenses.
All students who meet the scheme's eligibility criteria are encouraged to apply during the 2024 NSFAS application period. Applications opened in November and will close on the final day of January 2024.
While applications have been open for less than one week, NSFAS received thousands of funding applications with at least 4000 students already approved for funding.
Student leaders recently expressed concern about the late opening of the 2024 bursary application period. They fear that the relatively short application period could present challenges which may prevent students from submitting their applications.
Spokesperson Slumezi Skosana explained the opening of NSFAS applications was delayed to align with the completion of SARS tax processes. This ensures the availability of crucial financial information for evaluating applicants' financial eligibility.
NSFAS funds students from poor and working-class backgrounds. The financial requirements for NSFAS require students to come from homes with a combined household income not exceeding R350,000. Disabled students may have a household income of up to R600,000 per annum.
The data from SARS will allow NSFAS to ensure only students who meet the financial eligibility criteria will receive funding.
While there have been no immediate changes to the eligibility criteria, Skosana revealed that refinements were underway. These refinements are expected to be completed in the coming days.
They explain that these eligibility refinements address challenges faced in the previous year and aim to improve the overall application experience for prospective beneficiaries.
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande recently announced that no documents or matric results will be required from NSFAS when students submit their applications.
Skosana clarified that the NSFAS system will verify critical student information through third-party partners, streamlining the process for applicants. Only in cases where the validation process fails will applicants be requested to provide the necessary documents.
You just apply without giving us any documents, and our system will confirm your parental relationships.
NSFAS Accommodation Controversy
NSFAS was recently accused of handing contracts to landlords of informal settlements for student accommodation. This would have contradicted NSFAS’ goals to ensure students stay in accommodation that is conducive to their studies.
Skosana clarified that NSFAS primarily provides funds to institutions. While discussions about direct contracts with student accommodation providers are in the pilot stage, Skosana dismissed claims of existing agreements with informal settlement landlords as unfounded.
The spokesperson emphasised NSFAS's caution, urging universities not to enter into long-term lease agreements with student accommodation service providers at this stage.
As we speak, NSFAS is saying to universities, please do not enter into long-term lease agreements with student accommodation service providers.
NSFAS claims of this nature made it imperative that colleges be part of the Student Accommodation Pilot project. The project is aimed at ensuring NSFAS only pays for student accommodation that is conducive to studying and prevents students from living in inappropriate housing.