THE National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding applications for 2022 is expected to open on 2 November, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande has announced.
Applications will open for all pupils and out-of-school youth from poor and working-class backgrounds who want to study at South African universities and TVET colleges, said Nzimande.
The minister was addressing the media on the launch of the NSFAS funding applications for the 2022 academic year, which will open on 2 November 2021.
“Considering the impact of [the] coronavirus, now more than ever, the demand for student funding has increased,” he said.
He said that the Covid-19 pandemic has seen the number of students who require financial assistance rise. He praised the new board for their efforts to ensure that students who require funding are not disadvantaged when it comes to attending university.
He said: “As the government, it is our duty to make sure that all those with potential are not prohibited by the lack of funds and we are proud of what this new board has delivered.”
For the 2020 academic year, NSFAS funded 751 858 students. Of these students who were supported by the fund, 489 912 attended universities while 261 404 attended TVET colleges. Around 470 696 of these students are females, this represents a 30% increase from 2018 when just 360 344 were females.
Nzimande has noted his concern around the decline in the number of students with disabilities at universities in South Africa. In 2019 there were 1 921 students with disabilities compared to 1 421 in 2020. This represents a 26% decrease.
Students with disabilities qualify for NSFAS funding if their combined household income is less than R600 000 per annum. NSFAS provided access to wheelchairs, hearing aids, adapted laptops and human support.
Nzimande said that students funded by NSFAS, on average, achieved better results than students who were not. He said this is a testament to how government funding and interventions can have a positive impact on students.
The government has categorised students into five cohorts which are said to cover all those who have the potential to study further and are in need of funding.
1. A first-time entering student (FTEN) who is a Sassa beneficiary. (Cohort 1)
2. A returning student who is a Sassa beneficiary. (Cohort 2)
3. A first-time entering student who is not a Sassa beneficiary. (Cohort 3)
4. A returning student, who is not a Sassa beneficiary. (Cohort 4)
5. A student living with a disability. (Cohort 5)
Nzimande said that it was the government’s duty to make sure that all those who have the potential to study further are not prohibited by a lack of funds.
He said they were proud of what the new board delivered.
“The board has assured me that the 2022 application process will handle student applications efficiently and make the application process seamless.”
The applications system will be open from 2 November 2021 until 7 January 2022 when the National Senior Certificate results are released.
According to the department, the total number of university students who are funded – including funding from other government departments, that is, the Department of Basic Education’s Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme, the National Skills Fund and SETAs – increased by 45.4% from 346 966 students funded in 2018 to 504 366 students funded in 2020.
Additional funding was reprioritised to support a NSFAS shortfall in 2021/22, taking the total NSFAS budget to approximately R42 billion.
Nzimande said that this was a significant contribution from the government to support access to higher education and the success of students from poor and working-class backgrounds.
“I am very proud of the achievements of the NSFAS,” Nzimande added.
The Minister announced the appointment of a Ministerial Task Team (MTT) to look at student funding policy issues for the future.
The team will develop policy proposals for a long-term student financial aid policy that will zoom into the comprehensive student financial aid needs of the post-school system.
The MTT will also look into alternative funding sources to widen funding for missing middle and postgraduate students.
“Although government has increased funding exponentially for students in TVET colleges and universities, we remain concerned about categories of students who struggle to afford higher education and the growing levels of student debt.”