Similarly, to how we’re all legally bound and accountable to the constitution of South Africa, as human beings, we ought to have a set of moral principles that guide and govern how we behave. These are called ethics. Although we come from different backgrounds and walks of life, there are certain values that have been instilled in our lives. Ethics is a concept that we’re expected to abide by in our daily lives, at school, university, college, in the workplace right down to how we behave in public transport. When it comes to the decision of accepting offers from multiple grants such as bursaries and scholarships, using ethics can be an extremely useful tool.
When you’re in matric and applying for funding, it is strongly advised that you apply to as many bursaries as possible. This is to increase your chances of receiving an offer as the tertiary funding pool can be quite scarce. This by no means should be an opportunity to accept more than one offer. This is most common with students who obtain exceptional results; therefore, multiple scholarships might be knocking at your doorstep.
What is “Double Dipping”?
“Double Dipping” is a term for accepting compensation, funding, benefits from two or more sources for a sole purpose that could be regarded as unethical. To bring it home a bit, a classic case of double-dipping would be accepting funding from NSFAS and also other bursaries that cover the same things concurrently, which is more common than you think. The logistics around this is that a student might accept an offer from NSFAS signing their contract and let the other bursary deposit the lump sum into their personal bank account. As a result, many funding companies are not able to hold students accountable which means this responsibility often lies with the individual student being funded. This all comes down to the choices you make and your moral guide (i.e. your code of ethics).
Is “Double Dipping” fraud?
While we’re all aware of the state of our country and the difficulties of coming from an underprivileged background, thus seeing accepting funding from multiple grants as an opportunity to cover other personal finances. However, “double-dipping” is unethical because it deprives other students of the opportunity to receive funding as well. In other words, once you accept more than one grant, this takes away from another well-deserving student who as a result of your choice, might not be afforded the chance to study. Moreover, this is an act of fraud and needs to be addressed as such: a financial crime. In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits. The important thing to bear in might is that there are serious consequences when you are eventually caught out e.g. criminal record or being excluded from your university.
The best approach once you receive multiple offers from bursaries is to carefully assess what your contract is offering you by comparing. Does the bursary offer full coverage or is it only the tuition? Is the one offer promising a bigger allowance? Are living expenses (i.e. meals and accommodation) included? Will you have to make some form of repayment (i.e. work back period)? For example, if a bursary covers you for three years, they might expect you to work for the three years post-graduation.
Once you have compared the offering, it is your responsibility to disclose (i.e. be honest) to the 2nd funding offer (i.e. other bursaries) that you already have funding and what the nature of the funding is. The other bursary might still fund you if there is a gap in your funding e.g. NSFAS will cover your necessities but might not funding your course-related field trips or conducting research, which the other bursary might cover. If you have been honest from the onset then you are not only displaying a good moral virtue (i.e. honesty), but you stay free of any trouble (i.e. consequences of fraud).
It is extremely critical that you carefully engage with the contract of the bursary to avoid being bound by terms and conditions that could have been avoided. This could also mean approaching a person you trust to explain any unfamiliar terms. Do your research and ask any unclear questions to other students that have received funding from the same bursary or better yet, you can always call or email a representative of the bursary to explain. As a prospective student, the key is to ask, ask and ask some more. Never be caught unaware of the conditions that affect you in accepting any bursary or “double dipping”.