Students have created a petition aimed at NSFAS and the Higher Education Minister to look into ways the financial aid scheme can support the missing middle. The decision of NSFAS to unfund thousands of students has not gone down well.
NSFAS pulling the funding from thousands of students after finding that these students had a household income of more than R350 000 a year is now being seen as an attack on the missing middle. The missing middle is seen as those students who on paper, are seen as having the finances to support their studies and therefore don't qualify to get funding but are actually in a space where they can't afford it, despite the numbers.
The petition reads:
Some of the 5000 of students who were unfunded wouldn't have applied for Nsfas if we could afford university fees ... some of us have parents who work for the government as public servants (educators, nurses etc) but still have responsibilities which include 5 dependents and sometimes the salary is not enough to to cater and pay school fees and send the children to university
It then continues saying that in some cases, there is also one parent supporting multiple children and that they can't "carry the load on their own".
The petition is then outlined as efforts to get those in charge reconsider the decision to unfund students mid year and that, "the threshold income does not mean a thing to a parent supporting +5 children, in debt and still has to pay tax".
Students are pleading with Administration to consider having NSFAS put a loan system in place for students who fall under the missing middle or to reconsider the threshold income that forms part of the qualifying criteria because they simply cannot afford the fees without outside help.
It was announced earlier in the year that missing middle students who don't qualify for a bursary from NSFAS will be able to get funding from NSFAS in the future. This will be done by NSFAS offering a loan to missing middle students, like the organisation used to.
Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, said in a media briefing in June that he has been looking into "what additional measures can be taken to have an affordable loan system for higher education with a particular focus on the missing middle."
The South African Union of Students (SAUS) is demanding that NSFAS retracts their statement saying they unfunded 5000 students and issue an apology within 5 business days and if they don't, SAUS is threatening to seek legal recourse.