Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Pretoria: The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) says a total of 1 263 671 students have been assessed as eligible for funding.

NSFAS Board Chairperson Ernest Khosa said the number of eligible students for 2021 funding includes 712 428 first time entry students and 551 243 continuing students, with 323 445 from Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and 940 226 universities.

Khosa was addressing the media, following an oversight visit by the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology at the scheme’s head office in Cape Town on Tuesday.

He said that NSFAS Board requested to meet the committee to introduce itself following its appointment on 1 January 2021. The board also wanted to share its strategy to turnaround the organisation and to pledge its commitment of cooperating with the committee, as an oversight structure of Parliament.

Khosa highlighted that despite the operational challenges experienced by the scheme when it was converted into a fully bursary fund from being a provider of student loans in 2018, the scheme continued to grow and has contributed to changing the lives of many South Africans.

“To illustrate, in 2017, there were 254 826 students funded and 40 564 graduates were produced. In 2018 these number grew by 84% leading to 361 449 students funded, and 59 249 graduates were produced,” Khosa said.

While noting these achievements, Khosa said there continues to be challenges that the organisation faces, which ultimately impact on the student experience.

These include, amongst others:

  • Student funding shortages;
  • Student centred model – delays in funding decisions, appeals processing, disbursements; weak queries resolution mechanism; policy issues such as the N+ 2 rule, absentee parents, postgraduate funding, student accommodation etc.;
  • Organisational structure that is not aligned to student centred model, lack of consequence management, lack institutional performance management;
  • Negative audit outcomes; and
  • Systems that are not fully responsive to the core business of the organisation.

Strategies to address challenges

Khosa said during the meeting with the committee, the board shared its strategies to address amongst other issues, the continuous challenges facing the organisation.

On the student funding, he said the scheme will support the work of Higher Education and Training (DHET) in assessing funding mechanisms.

The board is also developing a fund-raising strategy.

“On student cantered model, we have commissioned an application system and process that will make real time funding eligibility decisions; appeals will be immediate for new students and for continuing students a new appeal portal will be introduced in the second semester which will assist in timely decision making,”

“The board, working with the DHET is exploring some funding policy issues. The board has initiated the process of reviewing the organisational structure to align to the student-cantered model. This work is expected to be completed within three months.” Khosa said.