Minister Says The Missing-Middle Struggle To Secure Funding Continues

Funding for missing middle students has been a topic of discussion for some time. Minister Blade Nzimande recently said the Department of Higher Education and Training has been working with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to find solutions.

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The missing-middle refers to those students who are too poor to afford higher education, yet not poor enough to qualify for funding through NSFAS, a government funded scheme that supports students with a household income of up to R350 000 per annum. 

These missing-middle students typically fall into an annual household income bracket of greater than R350 000, but less than R600 000. It is considered to be falling in the funding gap, as they can’t afford to pay for university fees but also do not qualify for NSFAS.  

While the government has made great strides in funding post-school education and training (PSET), Nzimande acknowledged that funding poor and the missing-middle students in South Africa still remains a challenge.

Funding for NSFAS has increased by five times just six years, from R 5.9 billion in 2014 to R 34.7 billion in 2020, said Nzimande. 

In the current fiscal year, NSFAS funding is expected to reach over R43 billion – a further increase of almost R10 billion in just two years.

NSFAS remains committed to work with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) Thuthuka Bursary Fund to ensure the economy has a consistent flow of sufficient and appropriately qualified accountants which represent the country’s demographics, the Minister has said. 

In addition, Nzimande said the government is also examining new processes, supported by both the public and private sectors, to support students in missing middle-income students. This will also include finding ways to support postgraduate students who are in need of funding.  

In the meantime, Nzimande added that they are finalizing a decade plan to strengthen and expand science, technology, and innovation systems with skills development as the central pillar development programs.
 

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