Concerns about rising student debt have been brought to the forward by the South African Union of Students, specifically its impact on missing-middle students.
Student debt is often the subject of debate among student movements, particularly when it comes to the provision of student funding by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas).
The South African Union of Students (SAUS) is calling on the bursary scheme to resolve the issue of funding the missing middle by the next academic year.
The union was discussing the matter during its 8th National General Council at the University of Mpumalanga from the 10th-13th of November 2022.
The General Council resolved that the intervention to assist the missing middle with funding must begin in the year 2023. Government must make resources available to support these students and NSFAS must immediately make communication with the public so that students can start applying for the following academic year.
The union went on to point out that, Nsfas’ failure to do this, will only result in this group of students’ inability to afford tertiary education and thus worsen resizing student debt. SAUS also called on the government to intervene by clearing all existing student debt currently owed by Nsfas-funded students.
“The decision to assist missing middle students is informed by the reality that the students do not afford education and end up being the major contributors to the student debt.”
Students must come from households with a combined annual income of no more than R350,000 to be eligible for Nsfas student funding. Missing-middle students come from parents that make more money than this but still struggle to pay for their tertiary education.
Meanwhile, the Department of Higher Education has recently discussed looking into possible funding options for this cohort of tertiary students, including loans, but is yet to make a final decision on this plan.
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