R5.3 billion. That's how much students who are funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) owe higher education institutions.
It's found that for some of these students, they are unable to pay their fees and have historical debt which means that they won't be able to register to study and are then forced to put a stop to their studies or are not given their certificates which are needed to find a job.
The Department of Higher Education has however acknowledged this major issue and as a solution, established the Close-Out Project with NSFAS. Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, said that they wish to complete all the work relating to funding of students and disbursement of allowances for the academic years 2017 to 2020.
This projects aims to address historical debt and the historic challenges of outstanding data reconciliation between NSFAS and institutions of higher learning in the country.
1.6 million University students were affected by this issue but they have since cleared 1 033 000 students. As for TVET Colleges, 1.3 million student were affected with about 764 000 students being cleared.
Universities and colleges will then need to submit the required information to NSFAS but it's been found that some institutions don't cooperate, which means that some students will still not be able to study.
The data of 52 000 University students and 34 000 TVET College students was not submitted with the institutions having to prove that those students must be funded.
All Universities submitted what they needed to whereas 41 out of the 50 TVET Colleges only cooperated. Non-responsive TVET colleges were sent a legal letter, stating the NSFAS position on their non-compliance with the close out process and the consequence of their action.
NSFAS had concluded the reconciliation process based on the data available at its disposal.