Student loans and bursaries

2015-08-27 06:00

SOUTH Africa is home to many world-class universities and colleges, and you’re smart and want to get ahead in life, but how will you pay for your studies­?

Studying is an expensive undertaking. You can expect to pay between R20 000 and R30 000 for each year of undergraduate study at a South African university. Specialised or professional degrees, such as medicine and engineering, can cost much more.

South Africa also has a wide range of private colleges, where tuition fees can be higher than at the subsidised public institutions.

Be sure to consider your options before deciding how to pay for your studies, and apply for any award or bursary for which you’re eligible.

University financial aid

If you have already enrolled at a university, or are considering doing so, its financial aid office should be your first stop.

Most universities offer bursaries or grants to students that have excelled in their previous studies, or on the sports field.

Check with your university’s financial aid office whether you are eligible for any of these bursaries or awards, and make sure that you apply before the closing date, which is usually in October of the year preceding the start of your studies. Some can be as early as March, so it’s worth checking the date.

National financial aid

If you are a South African citizen you may be eligible for a National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) loan to study at one of the country’s public higher education institutions.

The NSFAS, a statutory body funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training, provides study loans to academically able, but financially needy students.

Much of an NSFAS loan can be converted into a bursary, which does not then need to be repaid, depending on one’s academic progress.

A 100% pass rate would result in a 40% bursary rebate on an NSFAS loan.

The size of the initial NSFAS loan ranges from R2 000 to R30 000. You should apply at your university’s financial aid office.

External bursaries

Many South African companies as well as provincial government departments offer bursaries to promising students.

The terms of these bursaries vary tremendously.

Contract bursaries require you to “pay back” the bursary by working at the company once you’ve completed your degree – giving you a job and work experience immediately after your graduation.

Many mining and engineering companies, in particular, provide contract bursaries.

– Supplied

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