You have probably dreamed of furthering your studies from a very young age, yet for some of you, this dream might have always been coupled with worrying about the financial possibility of pursuing your studies after school. Well, not worry as there are countless bursaries and scholarships available for you. One of these avenues is the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). NSFAS is the government’s key funding institution for supporting poor and working-class students to access higher education opportunities.
Following the nationwide #FeesMustFall campaign in 2015, on the 16th of December 2017, the government announced that as from 2018, the government would be phasing in “fully subsidised free higher education and training for poor and working-class South Africans”. But what does this free higher education mean exactly?
As from 2018, all NSFAS funded university students’ loans will be converted into fully subsidised bursaries. This new policy transition phases out loans where you must pay back once you begin working. It will provide full bursaries for tuition and study materials to qualifying South African students at public TVET colleges and universities, and subsidised accommodation or transport capped at specific levels for those who qualify.
What is the criteria and what exactly is covered?
All registered university students from South African households with gross annual incomes of R350 000 or less will qualify and receive bursaries. Although NSFAS will pay tuition for all different types of students, it is important to note that allowances will differ on whether you receive accommodation and the type of accommodation. For students staying in campus residences and off-campus in private accommodation, you will receive a stipend of R1 569.44 every first week of the month (March – November). This allowance makes provision for food only. A once-off textbook allowance is given in February, totaling the value of R5 275.00. Students staying in private accommodation will receive the food allowance and the once-off textbook. However, the rent expense will be paid to a maximum of R32 000.00
The general rule is that students who live within a radius of 30 km of the university premises are not considered for an accommodation allowance. Therefore, students living at home will receive an allowance of R1 080,56 and this is for transport exclusive of meals. However, they will also receive the textbook once-off allowance of R5 275.00. Distance learning students will only receive a book allowance of R5000.
The first payment of NSFAS will be received whether you signed the NSFAS agreement or not. Thereafter, allowances will be dependent on you signing your agreement, so it is extremely important that you sign as soon as possible.
If you identify as a student that potentially qualifies under the new criteria, do not hesitate to apply. Please note that the allowances will be provided in cash. It is therefore, your responsibility to manage the allowances wisely and to use it’s intended purpose. Applications generally open the beginning of September every year, however, this is subject to change so please check out their websites (cilck here) and be one step closer to making those dreams a reality.