Students owe national aid scheme billions of rands

2010-02-03 10:24

MORE than 100 000 students who have received loans from the

National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), are unable or unwilling to pay

the money back, amounting to billions of rand worth of debt.

In a presentation to the Higher Education and Training Portfolio

Committee in Parliament yesterday, Director General Mary Metcalfe said the money

was mostly owed by students who had dropped out of universities or colleges, or

who had graduated but were either unemployed or unwilling to pay back their

loan.

Students who had graduated were only expected to start repaying

their loan once they were earning a minimum of R30 000 per annum.

It has emerged that about 530 000 university students had received

loans from the NSFAS since its inception 20 years ago, but about 20% of them had

never made a single repayment, amounting to approximately R2 billion of unpaid

debts.

The amount of debt owed did not include students currently

studying.

A further 71 431 students at Further Education and Training (FET)

colleges had received R600 million in loans over the last three years, but it

was not clear how much of them had graduated and started repaying their loan;

how many had dropped out; or how many graduates had started on their

repayments.

NSFAS spokesperson Bonny Feldman said they acknowledged there were

“many factors” which made it difficult for dropouts or graduates to repay their

loan, chief among these was unemployment.

“It is the responsibility of the debtor to advise the NSFAS

regularly on their employment status,” said Feldman.

She said payment could be made through direct deposit instalments

or could be deducted monthly from the employer’s payroll.

Meanwhile, some students interviewed said even though they had

graduated and were employed, they did not intend paying back their student

loans, while others said they would like to, but had no job and no income.

Unathi Phithi (36), graduated from the University of the Western

Cape in 2004, and is earning “a good salary”.

But Phithi said she had not made arrangements with the NSFAS and

ignores letters from the scheme and has no intention of repaying her loan. She

said when the NSFAS started debiting money from her bank account, she closed the

account and opened a different one. “I am already in debt with other accounts

and adding the scheme (to my debt payments) would bring more problems.”

Paying back his loan is something Phumlani Sibevu (38) would love

to do.

Sibevu said he dropped out of the Cape Peninsula University of

Technology in 2007 and besides a stint as a labourer on a construction site, he

has been unemployed.

He said NSFAS regularly sent him letters of demand for repayment of

the R30 000 loan he’d taken, of which he’d managed to pay back R2 500.

“I would like to work and pay my debt because it is my

responsibility to repay the loan, but with the current situation (being

unemployed) I am unable to do so.” he said.

“Once I get a proper job I will let them know and pay them,” he

said.

– West Cape News

 


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