Although NSFAS currently provides funding to 60% of the country’s tertiary students, student accommodation for this cohort of students remains a controversial subject due to the newly introduced R45,000 annual price cap on student accommodation.
However, the Higher Education Department maintains that the decision is a necessary measure because private accommodation providers over-charge the bursary scheme.
During a recent interview Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande admitted that implementing the accommodation price cap has not been without its own challenges due to a variety of reasons.
One of the main issues, according to Nzimande, is that there are currently more NSFAS funded students that are enrolled in tertiary institutions than there is available space for student accommodation.
As a result of this, not all of the more than 1 million students who qualified for NSFAS student funding could have their funding applications approved.
Nzimande went on to point out that the scheme had already spent R11 billion on student accommodation last year, adding that it is partly for this reason that NSFAS must play an active role determining prices for student accommodation.
There were also suggestions that NSFAS should instead directly give students the accommodation funding allocation and allow them to seek accommodation on their own. However the minister rejected the idea saying that NSFAS would have no way to monitor how the funds are spent.
“Many students are the first to go to university in their families, so they send the money home rather than spending it where it is supposed to be spent. Some students are the breadwinners in their family. It is not a grant, it is only for education.”
The minister further stated that the government would not be able to afford to fund an infrastructure project that would see them building government and university owned student accommodation as an alternative option to those that are privately owned.