Thousands of students rely on funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to pay for their undergraduate studies. The financial aid scheme has introduced a new strategy to ensure students receive their funding when they need it.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is confident that the newly introduced processes will ensure they fulfil their mandate by providing financial aid to students in an effective and efficient manner.
NSFAS provides comprehensive bursaries to deserving undergraduate students enrolled in programmes at public universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in South Africa.
The financial aid scheme will pay a student’s tuition and registration fees as well as provide them with several allowances. Allowances provided by NSFAS include an accommodation allowance, living allowance and learning material allowance.
In the past, NSFAS followed a procedure where they paid funds for student allowances to universities, which were responsible for distributing the allowances to the students. However, this process of paying allowances to institutions often faced difficulties, resulting in delays in the payment of allowances to students.
Several factors could lead to a delay in the payment of NSFAS allowances. This includes administrative issues, challenges within the NSFAS system, student verification challenges and communication gaps between NSFAS and institutions.
NSFAS spokesperson Slumezi Skosana said some institutions are not disbursing allowances as they should be, as many lacked the administrative capacity to perform this task.
These challenges led NSFAS to take a decision at the end of 2022 to pay allowance directly to students. These direct payments are facilitated by the newly introduced NSFAS bank account.
It is believed that this will assist some of the institutions that lack the administrative capacity to dispute allowances to students. This often led to student protests at campuses around the country.
Another challenge that delays the distribution of NSFAS funds is the misalignment of the commencement of the academic year and financial year. The academic year often begins during January/February while NSFAS receives their funding in April.
Skosana is confident that challenges that plagued the financial aid scheme in the past will not cause challenges in the future.
Asive Dlanjwa from the South African Union of Students (SAUS) says while money was available for student funding at the beginning of the 2023 academic year, protests occurred at several institutions.
Between NSFAS and the institutions, through the leadership of the department, they should have already coordinated and ensured that there’s a coherence in terms of their systems”
Dlanjwa says payment delays are not due to funding challenges but rather discoordination between NSFAS and institutions. They add that this then creates a problem because NSFAS said that funding decisions would be delayed but at the same time, institutions are closing their registration periods.
Demzyportal Category: NSFAS
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